‘What are we fightin’ for?’: student movements, the SDS and the American counterculture during the Vietnam War

Stockley, Rebecca (2015) ‘What are we fightin’ for?’: student movements, the SDS and the American counterculture during the Vietnam War. BA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    This dissertation examines the counterculture in America during the 1960s that was characterized by anti-establishment values. The 1960s remains so vivid in memory and is continually being viewed as a contested space by academics. Conservatives saw it as a period when America was moving away from its traditional values and morals, whilst the Left viewed it as a time of hope with the prospect of returning America to its origins of individualism. This study draws on the ideas and values of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) to illustrate the nature of the counterculture. As 1950s America advanced to the 1960s, young people, particularly students began to challenge mainstream values, especially as involvement in Vietnam increased.

    This work discusses the parallels between the counterculture and the SDS during 1960s America. The student movement became a reflection of an alternate America, which was mirrored within the counterculture as a whole. It reveals the political nature of countercultural music and how this was utilised as a tool of protest within the student anti-war campaigns. The Woodstock music festival is considered a highpoint for the counterculture and the SDS during 1969, where the student movement’s founding ideas of communal living, drugs, music and participatory democracy were present. The decline of the SDS into factions, most notably the Weathermen, coincided with the deaths of prominent countercultural musicians such as Jimi Hendrix. During the 1970s the counterculture fragmented, music entered a dark psychedelic phase, and the radical terroristic nature of the Weathermen who felt under attack from American society signalled a decline in the prospects of achieving an alternative America. The SDS was an integral part of the counterculture during a contested era, seeking to challenge the status quo and move America away from its materialist and imperialist nature.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Languages and Area Studies
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2015 16:13
    Last Modified: 08 Jul 2015 16:13
    URI: http://eprints.port.ac.uk/id/eprint/17649

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