Problems in making sense of the influence of the counterculture (c. 1970)

Kurt Andersen’s recent NYTimes OpEd on the 60s roots of “selfishness” and a subsequent radio interview are pointing to the same idea as my post a few months ago about science, in which I said:

The same four currents–access to tools, rejection of the System (conformity, bureaucracy, large corporations), new, flexible organizations, and faith in individuals–lead to disparate outcomes. E.g., John Brockman celebrates individual scientists and their innovations and rejects social interpretations of science. Scientist Lee Worden promotes social movements for (and social interpretations of) change in society and science.

The implication of this theme is not to discredit all social change initiatives that shared the same roots as libertarian economics or hedonistic narcissism.   Nor is it to say there were people who had pure motivations but allowed themselves to be corrupted.  The implications I see are as follows:

  1. At any point people are making their lives with multiple resources and see alliances or similarities with other people who are making their lives with some of the same resources as well as others.  The shared resources do not determine a shared outcome.
  2. There is a challenge to make sense of the path one took.  The simple narratives, e.g., “I came of age at a time when the young thought they could change the world,” are not sufficient.  (It seems that Kurt Andersen’s new novel, “True Believers,” has a fictional character addressing this challenge.)

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