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The Hippie Movement

The Hippie Movement was a complex, multi-dimensional sociocultural phenomenon that produced a lasting impact on different spheres of American life. This essay will focus specifically on the influence this movement had on the United States economy. Strangely enough, from the economic perspective, the most dramatic change associated with the Hippie Movement was sexual revolution. It caused the redefinition of gender roles, and women ceased to limit themselves to homemaking:

‘The ‘traditional family’ where women stayed home and took care of the kids was clashing up against the reality of more women entering the workforce and going to college’ (Li, 1999, para. 8). Women wanted to be perceived as fully-fledged members of society and joined the workforce actively. Before the sexual revolution, women, who were breadwinners, had been few and far between. Yet the situation changed quickly in the 1960s and subsequent decades.

While feminism was also on the rise, many women started to view career as one of their life priorities, thus challenging the traditional gender norms: ‘Appearing just as the women’s movement took off, the hippie counterculture also challenged conventional ideas of appropriate gender roles’ (Rosen, 2001, p. 124). Women massive joining workforce contributed to economic growth and development. Another typical feature of the Hippie Movement is that it lured teenagers and youth into running away from home and living an independent life:

‘[Young Hippies]…left their families and did it for many different reasons. Some rejected their parents’ ideas, some just wanted to get away, and others simply were outcasts, who could only fit in with the Hippie population’ (Huber, Lemieux & Hollis, n/d. , para. 1). While many younger Hippies were reluctant to enter paid employment, they eventually had to get some job. Therefore, many younger citizens have joined the workforce. Additionally, this development had more far-reaching implications.

The Hippie Movement established a new tradition for early teenage aspiration for independence, financial independence from parents included. Middle class youth started to join workforce much early as compared to the generations who lived in the first decades of the previous century. While these two features influenced the U. S. economy in a positive way, Hippie values and Hippie lifestyle were contrary to the notions of gainful employment and productivity. Many Hippies were unemployed or occupied low-paid positions; some of them preferred vagabond life.

Hippie culture was anti-establishment in its essence, while hard work and industriousness were perceived as conformist values, from which Hippies wanted to be liberated. Hippies often lived bohemian life getting money occasionally and from different sources. A good example of Hippie lifestyle is the story of Merry Pranksters. In 1964 Ken Kesey had an interesting idea how to promote his new book, Sometimes a Great Notion. He and his friends, later labeled as the Merry Pranksters, drove from San Francisco to New York in a psychedelic painted bus.

It was named Furthur – a combination of the word “further” and “future. ” For several generations after Kesey living in a bus became a symbol of freedom, and this road trip was further describes in the landmark novels of the Hippie epoch – Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and On the Road. It is quite obvious that Hippie lifestyle has no connection to the promotion of economic efficiency. Another typical characteristic of Hippie culture was the use and abuse of drugs, predominantly marijuana and hallucinogens.

Drug use reached ‘sufficient magnitude to justify the designation of the 1960s as ‘a new chemical age. ’ Recently compounded psychotropic agents were enthusiastically introduced and effectively promoted, with the consequence of exposing the national consciousness to an impressive catalog of chemical temptations – sedatives, tranquilizers, stimulants, antidepressants, analgesics, and hallucinogens – which could offer fresh inspiration, as well as simple and immediate relief from fear, anxiety, tension, frustration, and boredom’ (Inciardi, 1990, p.

11). It is quite obvious that the abuse of drugs did not contribute to workplace productivity. In addition, marijuana is a drug that diminishes motivation and gives rise to passiveness and apathy. Consequently, few Hippies worked, and those who did were unproductive and often changed jobs. Drug abuse in the 1960s produced a serious impact on the economy in the longer perspective. The psychedelic epoch considerably impaired national health. Several generations following the Hippies could feel the devastating consequences of rampant drug use.

This phenomenon puts an additional pressure on healthcare even nowadays. Another way to analyze the influence of the Hippie Movement on the economy is through the prism of Hippie’s political views. They were mostly left in their opinions, and political left is associated with high social spending and universal welfare. Hippies pressured the government to provide better social protection, which sometimes resulted in an excessive burden on the government. Anti-capitalist views expressed by Hippies might have undermined American competitiveness.

Hippies attempted to ‘buffer the majority of people against the abuse of power in a capitalist economy. They detested monopoly and liked public services’ (Gitlin, 1993, p. 60). Since the U. S. economy was faring well in the post-war era, the effects of this development were not keenly felt. Yet there was another way how Hippies undermined capitalist economy. They believed that a man does not need many material things in order to survive. They also believed that people should value spiritual revelation and personal freedom more than wealth and property. Essentially, Hippie culture was anti-consumerist.

From purely economic point of view, any decline in domestic consumer spending is very dangerous for the economy. The term ‘Gandhian economics’ can be used to define the life of many Hippie communes. Gandhian economics implies that a commune is a self-sufficient entity where members are able to produce their own food, clothing and means of living. Under the principle of Gandhian economics, less luxury goods should be produced, since people have to satisfy their basic needs and cease to derive pleasure from possession but engage in spiritual development.

Such approach might have led to a considerable economic decline. Basic products as contrasted with luxury goods have little added value, therefore they do not fuel economic growth. Furthermore, Hippies were reluctant to use cosmetics, buy new clothes, and use manufactured medicines. They believed in natural beauty and holistic medicine. It caused a minor slowdown in research and production of textiles, drugs, and some FMCGs. Another feature of Hippie culture was environmentalists.

While there is a broad consensus that economic growth and environmental protection are contradictory in the short run, Hippie’s pressure on the government and companies caused the first to increase spending on environmentally-friendly activities and the later to engage in environmentally-benign practices, even if they were not economically feasible. However, there was another political peculiarity of the Hippie Movement that is closely tied with economy. Hippies were pacifists and started a potent anti-war movement:

‘Thus in the 1960s, the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, and the hippie counterculture movement were so heavily cross-identified that their participants in the late 1960s used to just refer to ‘the Movement’’ (Calhoun, 2001, p. 38). Many believe that anti-war movement and domestic opposition resulted in the withdrawal of forces from Vietnam, and the war there cost millions in lives and billions in dollars. Therefore, the Hippie Movement produced a controversial impact on the American economy. From one hand, many women and younger citizens joined the workforce, and the U. S.

withdrawn from Vietnam. From another hand, Hippie lifestyle did not endorse traditional values of industriousness and gainful employment. Anti-consumerism and drug abuse were two other negative factors. Yet in general, Hippie movement laid the foundation for the emergence of subsequent Yuppie generation, which most definitely contributed to the economic growth.


Calhoun, Craig. ‘Putting Emotions in Their Place. ’ In Goodwin, Jeff, Jasper, James M. , & Francesca Polletta (Eds). Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2001. Gitlin, Todd.The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, Revised ed. New York: Bantam, 1993. Inciardi, James A. Handbook of Drug Control in the United States. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1990. Rosen, Ruth. The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America. New York: Penguin, 2001. Huber, Adam, Lemieux, Chris, & Marlon Hollis. ‘The Hippie Generation: A Brief Look Into the Hippie Culture. ’ N/d. May 23, 2007. <http://users. rowan. edu/~lindman/hippieintro. html> Onesto, Li. ‘The Sexual Revolution and Dreams of a New World. ’ January 24, 1999. May 23, 2007. <http://rwor. org/a/v20/990-99/991/60swom. htm>

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