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Analysis Of Neo-hippies – A Popular Contemporary Subculture

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Introduction

This paper aims at analysing the popular contemporary subculture, neo-hippies. Ellis (2016) signifies popular culture as a process that enable a wide audience to give meaning to their lives, specifically when the families, workplace, governments and other societal structures contradict with their experiences. Moreover, popular culture can be comprehended as an arena where dominant groups and subordinate groups of society struggle and negotiate over their respective interests to sustain hegemony. In other words, popular culture is made by people for themselves as a result of conflicts and contradiction with the prevailing capitalist institutional structures ruling the culture industry, Similar to that, back in the 1960’s, the hippie subculture emerged from middle-class white youth as a way to compromise balance and dominant forms of culture such as, the ‘status quo’.

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It is worth mentioning here that although the hippie subculture emerged in the 20th century their remnant influence can still be observed in our contemporary society. Based on this, this paper is going to analyse the revival of the aforementioned subculture in the form of the newly observed subculture, the neo-hippies. The rationale behind the recurrence of this counterculture can be viewed as a response to status quo of the capitalist class that has been governing the cultural industry which aim at conforming society to their preferred views and maintaining hegemony. Since the same power structures are still prevalent today as they have in the past, neo hippies consider it imperative to respond to this situation by spreading the constructs of love and peace through their self-created norms. In this account, the paper is going to discuss this cultural phenomenon. Structurally, this paper is divided into three key sections inclusive of literature review on the concerning topic utilizing the concepts of Hegemony and the Ideological State Apparatus. In the analysis section, this cultural phenomenon will be analysed critically alongside practical examples and theoretical underpinning.

Literature Review

The hippie subculture emerged from the rival attitudes of 1960’s youth against the capitalist class. This subculture challenged the hegemonic forces who intended to turn the informed citizens into mere consumers. Ashbolt (2015) argues that consumer culture preferred by capitalist class was greatly despised and criticised by the hippies. This hippie subculture can also be regarded as a counterculture as it rejected the mainstream cultural norms and values by actively defying the prevalent culture. Larkin (2015) defines hippies as individuals who abandoned their comfort zones and started living their lives in poverty. This subculture has greatly shaken the US and the entire world through its establishment against the status-quo.

Hippie subculture was a movement that emerged from the influence of Beatnik counterculture who stressed individual freedom while disregarding oppression and repression coming from the American way of life. Beatnik was another subculture which was prominent before the rise of the hippie subculture. This movement adobted all different cultural influences and through adopting peculiar styles which communicated their prominent differences. To exemplify, dresses of individuals of the hippie subculture were designed in such a way as to serve for protests against war. The hippie subculture was primarily aimed to dismantle class system domination In the society, which was merely based on the concepts of materialism and the repression of the lower classes. Thus, the hippie subculture was a collective of awareness consciousness in an attempt to confront the socio-economic imbalance. The root cause of this movement was grained in fear faced by the young generation on the over-bureaucratisation of a state institution. Youth expressed rage against rigid bureaucratisation of academic institutions by involving campus protests against nuclear bomb testing, anti-war rallies In the streets, etc. In protest, they raised the slogan for peace and love and developed a cultural revolution. These processes demonstrated their fundamental ethos relating to artistic implementations in music, communal living, harmony with nature, and the use of drugs.

Irrespective of their positive attitudes to expand peace, love, and freedom, this culture has been critiqued by feminists. They claim that in the name of love and freedom, women who joined this movement were exploited and imprisoned. The neo-hippies even today are distinguished because of their own created dressing style, arts, and physical apparent outlook, manifesting their down to earth attitude/behaviour, etc. Hippies usually are featured with long hair, men with long beards, beads and sandal wore by both man and women, whereas, dresses are usually not familiar to conventional or popular norms, flowing granny dresses and in psychedelic colours. In short, the hippies have unique cultural preferences that are a blended form of all subcultures followed by indigenous people.

Popular Culture of Neo-Hippies in the Contemporary Era

Neo-hippie culture can be deliberated as the revival of previously existed hippie culture. This is due to the fact that a wide array of norms, values, and varied lifestyles of hippies can be observed among the present millennials. As mentioned earlier, to become a hippie, it is imperative for one to sacrifice the materialistic lifestyle and luxury of the lives in order to achieve a higher idea. In other words, their ideology was anti-materialistic which has led them to willingly drop out from their educational institutions. As mentioned by Wessen (2011), hippies stringently deemphasised the military imperialism as well as consumerism. Hippies used to oppose the laws which prohibited the use of psychedelics and marijuana. Whiteley (2015) explained that hippies considered marijuana and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) as recreational drugs which facilitated them in expanding their level of consciousness.

In the present era, due to limited legalisation on the use of marijuana, exposure of unintended marijuana has increased among both adolescents and children. Moreover, a survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 2013 has revealed the elevated use of illegal drugs among students from the previous years in the US. In addition, individuals also grow marijuana on their own. It is to be noted here that youth uses marijuana either to feel different, to feel relieved or to fit in the group.

Similarly, Whiteley (2015) stated that hippies used to seek for spiritual guidance from external sources outside religions. They usually believed in astrology and eastern religions. Card reading was a common habit of hippies. Similar to that, tarot card reading is prevalent among neo-hippies in order to search for messages, signs, and prophecies. Basically, they intended to find out the meaning of their life as well as the truth about themselves and the world. Moreover, yoga was a common practice of hippies which they used for meditation. In addition, yoga put emphasis on a balanced diet which generally includes natural foods. Similarly, present youth are seen to convert into vegetarians as it is not only organic but also inexpensive. This practice can be backed by a present-day eco-friendly attitude of youth who prefer eating organic food which is homegrown. Basha et al. (2015) have claimed that awareness regarding toxic chemicals in food has been amplified among consumers which have led them to consume organic food.

Crenshaw (2014) states that music allows people to express their emotions and ideas which cannot be expressed through other cultural products. Rock and folk music which was valued previously by Hippies is even popular among present youth across the world. Whiteley (2015) argued that rock music was identified as a political weapon which was used by hippies to extend human consciousness against soul-destroying boundaries of politics prevalent at that time. On the whole, neo-hippies prefer to live a nomadic lifestyle impressing a carefree life. Furthermore, polyamory practices previously revered by 1960s hippies can be observed among the present youth. Polyamorous individuals are generally involved in more than one intimate relationship simultaneously, in addition, marriage is not considered as a dominating feature amid these relationships. Boyd (2017) has underlined that polyamorous relationships have been amplified among people. However, there exist sanctions that forbid people to engage in polyamory as it is likely to create several legal family issues. Succinctly, it can be said that youth is adopting neo-hippie culture as a way to free themselves from societal restrictions. It has been observed that the traditional values and beliefs of hippies are modified in this contemporary era which could be due to greater societal influence, as well as political and economic hegemony. This modification is now labelled as neo-hippie culture or the rise of hippie subculture where people claim to be the follower of traditional practices however, their actions contradict their words.

Analysis & Application of Concepts

A cultural phenomenon and persistent change in societal perception are some of the common notions among sociologists and social theorists. It has been debated that cultures may vary from society to society and that the contemporary followers of the specific culture may modify traditional beliefs and values as per their feasibility and current paradigms. A plethora of studies asserted that with the passage of time, uncertainty and mutation are anticipated in traditional cultural values. However, the new practices may follow core values which restrict the followers from deviating completely. Nevertheless, it has been encountered that neo hippies contradict the aforementioned analysis as they somehow deviate from their traditional cultural values.

Neo hippies, in the contemporary era, are less radical as compared to the early Hippies who used to cover the street with demonstration and were staunch in the physical appearance. Even the ideology that ruled them is left mere in words and not in practical life. It has been established that the sub-culture of hippies emerged are now mingled in this advanced materialistic word and that they are now no more formidable menace for status quo. The hippies today seasonally changed their outlook (specifically on weekends) while on normal days contribute in capitalist word by serving “9 to 5 white-collar jobs”. This change in the concept and practice of hippies over a period of time can be analysed by applying the Hegemony concept.

The word and concept of hegemony got popularize during 1960. The concept of hegemony was discussed in the work of Antonio Gramsci, who observe cultural scenario from the thoughts of Karl Marx. Gramsci shed light on how the state and civil society produce and maintain consent to the class hierarchies of capitalist society and how the contemporary era follows traditional cultural beliefs. A distinction between the coercion and consent as an alternative mechanism of social power explains Gramsci’ notion of hegemony. Coercion is considered as a violent and harsh policy of state particularly against those who do not involve in capitalist practices. Whereas hegemonic power attempt to persuade social classes to survive in an exploitative environment. The groups resting upon voluntarism and participation are the social power of society.

The influence of capitalist society and economic status are some of the factors that may persuade people to deviate from conventional cultural preferences. As observed earlier, the revival of hippie subculture as neo hippie reveals a number of different changes which could be due to economic and political predominance which impose a pressure on the followers to follow contemporary societal norms. Specifically, class dominance, artistic values, as well as spirituality and religion are less likely to be considered by neo hippies. In contrast to the earlier hippie culture that was against materialism and capitalism, the neo hippies have modern ethos and characteristics that instead of counter-cultural movement, emphasis more on fashion statements and class system. They have become occasional followers which is particularly due to hegemonic power.

Other than the theoretical underpinning of hegemony, the rise of hippie subculture can also be pondered by the ideology of state apparatus which is a phenomenon introduced by Louis Althusser (Marxist philosopher) in 1970. According to this phenomenon, the social institutions like law, trade unions, media, family, churches, and education are not solely under the control of state however, these institutions assist to transmit the state values in order to interpolate the status quo and a sense of harmony in the society. Nonetheless, in the contemporary society, the capitalism and individual dominance rule to the extent which decimates traditional beliefs and replaces ideological state apparatus by modified social institutions where social class system dominates. With respect to the theoretical underpinning of ideological state apparatus theory, it can be inferred that the rise of hippie subculture and the deviation from traditional cultural belief is the end result of contemporary bureaucratic paradigm and economic uncertainties which influence the citizens of the modern world and compel them to modify early practices.

However, the aforementioned theory has been criticised by overemphasising on social institutions and its influence on the contemporary cultural phenomenon by neglecting individual autonomy. Thus, in the rise of Hippies or neo hippies and contradiction in the traditional cultural values, the psychological makeup of mind and individual needs play a pivotal role other than hegemonic powers. On this ground, it is worth mentioning that early preference for societal peace and the conventional war against capitalism by hippies in previous decades have been changed may be due to changing human needs and living standards in a contemporary environment. Consequently, it is to be noted that with the passage of time, the economic power, learning needs along with arts and crafts, music, and other psychological and physiological needs get changed that transform system and culture as a whole.

Conclusion

The purpose of this paper was to shed light on the contemporary cultural phenomenon with the help of theoretical underpinnings of cultural theories. Specifically, the paper opted for the rise of hippie subculture (i.e., neo hippies) as the main subject area by connecting the notion with two theories including hegemony and the ideology of state apparatus that typically relates with Marxists viewpoint. The main findings of the paper led to the fact that hippie culture is movement initiated in the year of 1960 by middle-class white young people as a way to conciliate balance with dominant forms of culture such as ‘status quo’. Specifically, the movement back in the 1960s aimed to maintain peace in the society and to disregard capitalism and the social class system in the society.

However, with the passage of time, the ideology and core values of the movement revealed modification in the contemporary era which is labelled as neo hippies. The rise of hippie subculture as per the theoretical underpinning of hegemonic powers and ideology of state apparatus revealed that the change in the earlier ideology of hippie culture is particularly due to the current bureaucratic paradigm as well as the greater influence of social institutions. Moreover, it has been revealed that the current followers of the hippie movement are under the influence of political and economic uncertainties which can be taken as the root cause of alteration in traditional beliefs and practices. However, individual autonomy along with psychological and physical needs in the contemporary environment cannot be neglected.

14 May 2021

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