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In sociology, Counterculture is a term used to describe a cultural group whose values and norms are at odds with those of the social mainstream. In this sense, the Mafia, street gangs, and the Amish, as well as hippies could all be considered countercultures in the United States.

1960s counterculture[edit]

The term "counterculture" is perhaps most commonly used in reference to the youth rebellion that swept North America and Western Europe in the 1960s. This movement was a reaction against the conservative social mores of the 1950s, the political conservativism of the Cold War period, and the threat to male American youth from the Vietnam War draft.

The 1960s youth rebellion largely originated on college campuses, as new theories about culture and personal identity began to spread rapidly in the student environment. The youth culture turned abruptly away from the sense of social responsibility embodied in the American Civil Rights Movement and the protests against the Vietnam War, and pursued instead a lifestyle of personal gratification and "exploring inner space." Instead of campus political activity (of which the University of California at Berkeley was one leading center), there was the youth cultural rebellion that centered in nearby San Francisco in the Haight-Ashbury district.

The most radical social element of this counterculture were the hippies, whose sexual revolution challenged conventional notions of sexual behavior, who engaged in recreational drug use (particularly LSD and marijuana), and who challenged social norms in the areas of religion, music, art, living arrangements, clothing and even hygiene. This aspect of the movement rejected the mainstream and, following the dictate of Timothy Leary to "tune in, turn on and drop out", attempted to change society by dropping out of it.

As members of the hippie movement grew older and moderated their views, the 1960s counterculture was absorbed by the mainstream. It had a lasting impact on morality, lifestyle and fashion. The New Age religious movement also has certain roots in the 1960s counterculture.

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