Counterculture seems partly based on a kind of fundamental resistance to - the 'counter' word - normative, routine, often repressive or limiting, cultural and social practices, the alternative practices of which were widely shared in the 1960s and early 1970s, - in people's minds and in life. And counterculture as a word seems to imply that 'culture' has some widespread, latent qualities affecting a fabric of life or values which inform language and behavior, and in which the emergence of counterculture is a response. And, not to reify ("thingify") counterculture too much, the countercultural aspects of the 1960s and early 1970s fundamentally changed how people thought, the effects of which on individuals are still fascinatingly and far-reachingly present in bodyminds 40 years later (embodimindedment}. Counterculture as an anthropological subject is interesting because it forms an obvious binomial in relation to 'culture.'
But when these widespread 'counter-' or countering tendencies - a generation of shared thinking - lessened, how did and does counterculture, as a kind of meme (word, cultural unit, pattern or social constellation, that has highly replicating properties in people's minds), continue? Some schools cultivate it. It also continues through hippies and others who think counterculturally as a response to social practices of modernity that emerged from those present in the 1960s. And it continues in places like clothing-optional Harbin Hot Springs, through people going mostly naked into the pools and hanging out at Harbin, in a pattern that is different from much of the rest of society.
Counterculture also gave rise to thinking in terms of the 'reverse,' uniquely to its time. As one reversal process, counterculture opened ways for people to think about enjoyment, as well as to enjoy themselves. There was a widespread, shared understanding that culture and society were influencing conditions that were not enjoyable, especially vis-a-vis militarily-industrially influenced modernity, and hippies found ways to explore fun and enjoyment in relation to these limiting social practices, often very creatively and humorously. In the midst of the 'rat race,' making money, and the hustle and bustle of modernity, (which is sometimes alienating?), hippies smile and found an ease, in protest, with many moving back to the land (2-10 million in the U.S. by Fred Turner's estimate in "From Counterculture to Cyberculture"). Clowning as hippie practice emerged; Wavy Gravy started a kid's camp for this: Camp Winnarainbow - campwinnarainbow.org/, in northern California. In a hippie bakery in Berkeley recently (November 2008), one of the workers in the collective smiled warmly at me when I didn't want to buy anything, suggesting a different way of seeing the world; this bakery seems to generate an alternative, easy, way of working, in general. It's a pleasant place to hang out. 'Reversal' is a key aspect of counterculture, - many men wore their hair short in the 1960s, so hippie men grew their hair long, and celebrated this.
Hippies also can fundamentally question aspects of 'up' and 'down' in society, finding ways to reshape these understandings, - in relation to race, in relation to war, 'the system,' to corporations and capitalism, in relation to knowledge production, and vis-a-vis daily social practices, often tactically, which become fascinating when examined (e.g. Michel de Certeau's "The Practices of Everyday Life"). To essentialize, reversing social understandings of up and down is a root of counterculture.
Counterculture also explicitly questioned authority again and again, and brought the limitations of the problematic uses of authority to the public, through talking about this, and through media, symbols, events and writings.
And hippies renamed so many aspects of life, with an explicit examination of language ~ cool.
To the Harbin pools soon, and the relaxation response before . . .