March 20, 2011

Counter-culture is term that describes the behaviour, values and norms of societies, and the culture group or sub culture that opposes to the social mainstream of their time; it is the equivalent of political opposition.

A Counter-cultural action or expression communicates disagreement, opposition, disobedience or rebellion.

Action may include:

  • Protesting against a particular situation or issue.
  • Rebelling against the acceptable way of doing things.
  • Struggling for liberation when you are oppressed or marginalised.
  • Finding new ways to represent yourself.
  • Creating your own culture.

Taking action may include:

Public Demonstration

Publications, symbols and songs helped to promote the public meetings and marches, for example peace campaigners in the 70’s physically 'demonstrated' their opposition to nuclear weapons and war.

Civil Disobedience

The group will general disrupt society, for example trespass on science labs and release laboratory testing an animals, in hope of media attention and shock to draw attention to their campaign.

Living Demonstration

Squatting is both symbolic and practical: a form of demonstration and a do-it-yourself solution to homelessness. Protesters like this can be seen in recent times in tents in Parliament Square, London.


Street parties, marching protests, chaining yourself to trees and buildings and strikes were popular methods of disruptive action in the 90s, the perfect way to protest and disrupt the organisation you’re targeting.

Underground Press

The UK underground press of the 60s and 70s mirrored the emerging Counter-culture. New forms of expression, publication and distribution were used to report on an active Counter-culture.


In the 60’s and 70’s the Gay, Women’s and Ethnic group’s liberation took off.

Do it Yourself

People stopped consuming the norm culture and made their own. Hence the birth of Punk and Riot Grrrl fanzines.


Example of Counter-cultural in 19th-century Europe included Romanticism, Bohemianism and the Dandy.

The most recent movement started in the the 1950s, both in Europe and the United States, in the form of the Beat Generation followed in the 1960s by the Hippies and the anti-Vietnam War protesters.

The term came to prominence in the news media, as it was used to refer to the social revolution that swept North America, Western Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand during the 1960s and early 1970s.

In the United States the counter-culture of the 1960s became identified with the rejection the cultural standards of their parents, especially with respect to racial segregation and widespread support for the Vietnam War.

In the United Kingdom Counter-culture of the 1960s was mainly a reaction against the social norms social norms of the 1940s and 1950s, although "Ban the Bomb" protests centred around opposition to nuclear Weaponry.


Action taken included the new genres of Psychedelic Rock music, Pop-art and Spiritualism. Musicians is this era included The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.

The Counter-culture of the 1960s and early 1970s generated its own unique brand of notable literature, including comics and cartoons which were referred to as the Underground Press. This included the works of Robert Crumb, Fritz the Cat and Keep on Truckin’. Publications included the Inter-nation Times, the Village Voice and OZ Magazine.


The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-gender community (LGBT), mostly evident in North America, Southern Cone, Western Europe, Australasia and South Africa, fits the definition of a Counter-cultural movement as "a cultural group whose values and norms of behaviour run counter to those of the social mainstream of the day."

In the early days of the 20th century homosexual acts were punishable offences. The public attitude was that homosexuality was a moral failing that should be punished, as exemplified by Oscar Wilde’s 1895 trial and imprisonment for "gross indecency."

But even then, there were dissenting views. Sigmund Freud publicly expressed his opinion that homosexuality was ‘a perfectly normal condition for some people’.

Eventually, a genuine gay culture began to take root, albeit very discreetly, with its own styles, attitudes and behaviours; industries began catering to this growing demographic group, especially in literature.

By the early 1960s, openly gay political organizations such as the Mattachine Society were formally protesting abusive treatment toward gay people.


The term "Контркультура" (Kontrkul'tura, "Counter-culture") was used in Russian to define a cultural movement that promoted acting outside the usual conventions of Russian culture.

During the early '70s, Russian culture was had a constant optimistic approach towards everything. Even mild topics such as breaking marriage and alcohol abuse tended to be viewed as taboo by the media.

The use of explicit language, graphical description of sex, violence and illicit activities began to take foot in the community, much like it was in Western Europe and the United States.

Counter-culture Videos

I found these two videos on Youtube which may explain a bit more:


  1. Interesting and well summarised view of Counter culture. I think, strictly speaking, Ban The Bomb was political rather than cultural. I'd add that the most deliberate countercultural music of the sixties was Folk featuring artists like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Point of fact: the underground newspaper is correctly named International Times also known as IT.

  2. Thanks a lot for the comment; some useful information to know!


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