The Hippies as Contrameritocracy

The Hippies as Contrameritocracy

Hippies seem to fascinate the mass media somewhat less than they did a year or two ago. But they have not disappeared. Older Hippies, who refused to reconvert to straight society, have moved from Haight Ashbury to Big Sur or other places more removed from the tourist trade. “Communes” have sprung up in rural or urban settings, and Hippies are less noticeable now that some of their fashions have become part of youth culture. Some say that Hippies have become Yippies: they have renounced nonviolence and political indifference in favor of active provocation and resistance. Others say the Yippies are an invention of the mass media. The “mother-fucker” wing of SDS seems to consist of “Hipster”-type Hippies attracted by the pornography of violence.

But regardless of the vagaries of fashion that permit successive cohorts of youth to differentiate themselves from one another, the Hippie phenomenon seems here to stay, not merely as a variety of the perennial bohemian fringe well described some years ago by Ned Polsky in this magazine, 1 but as a social movement of some significance.

It is likely that Hippies, ostentatiously doing their thing even in Traverse City, Michigan, are an intrinsic part of the postindustrial world. My hypothesis is that there is developing in the United States (and probably in other industrialized countries of the West) a contrameritocracy which offers the failures or dropouts of the achievement society a ...

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