How appropriate is the term 'Cultural Revolution' to describe the events of 'the long sixties' (c. 1958 - c. 1974)? Discuss with reference to three of the disciplines represented in block 6: History, History of Science and Religious Studies.
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How appropriate is the term 'Cultural Revolution' to describe the events of 'the long sixties' (c. 1958 - c. 1974)? Discuss with reference to three of the disciplines represented in block 6: History, History of Science and Religious Studies. The sixties did not witness a political or economic revolution, but there were changes in 'everyday' life, which is why the term 'Cultural Revolution' seems appropriate when using the word 'culture' to mean a 'network, or totality of attitudes, values and practices of a particular group of human beings.' (The Sixties, Block 7, page 23/4) The conceived 'mainstream' ideas and beliefs were certainly challenged and modified in many areas during the 'long sixties'. Material conditions, sexual behaviour, family and race relationships, attitudes to authority and ideas and values were targeted by a very effective 'counter-culture'. I also feel it's important to clarify the fact that when discussing the 'Cultural Revolution' I am restricting myself to the events that happened largely in America and Western Europe. HISTORY Historically speaking I feel it is necessary to clarify the terms used. Though I use the labels 'mainstream' and 'counter-culture', this in no way implies that the values held by each were polar opposites. To the contrary, many aspects of the 'counter-culture' were a natural progression or a tangent of those aspects of the 'mainstream' culture.
Science was becoming a moral/political problem as the counter-culture rejected the imperialist nature of the war and the chemical destruction. However, some scientists could not distinguish the moral from their technical research. Questions were being raised as to what restrictions should be placed on scientific research and how to distinguish between the moral and political problems that were inextricably being tied together. Rather than accepting what the 'authority' had to say, a counter culture was rejecting their claims and raising important points. The counter-movement in Science was about constructing a more democratic society that was not dominated by a scientific-technological elite and wanting to assemble a more humanitarian society. A new demand for women to play a greater role in Science was fuelled by feelings that they were being ostracised from an exciting and rewarding career. One reason for these feelings were that the research laboratory quite often represented the gender roles that were expected in the home. Alice Rossi remarked in 1965 that there was a social responsibility to help women manage family, home and profession and that 'conflicts and difficulties [...] can be a spur to creative social change.' (B6, Resource Book 4, page 51) The Cultural Revolution did see a rise in the roles of women in Science, particularly in the area of Primatology.
The sixties counter-culture had a 'domino effect' - each new thought or idea fuelled a more extremist view and this fed into all disciplines, not just religion and science but also in literature, art and music. I feel that the vision of the counter-culture, of a more tolerant and democratic society did reach its realisation, though some may disagree. Jim Haynes' autobiography, 'Thanks for Coming!' shows the deflation felt by many after the era lapsed; 'The end of the sixties came as an incredible collapse [...[we weren't going to change the world. We could only maybe change ourselves a bit. And I think that this resulted in a depression.' (A4, Resource Book 4, page 24) I think what he says about 'changing ourselves' is perhaps the most significant. These people grew to be adults, a generation older and these are now the elders of society, the people that fought for freedom and did 'change' themselves. So through the change of each individual comes a change of community, to a change or a society, to the change of the world. This tolerant attitude has been fed down to two or three further generations. So, surely this was the 'Cultural Revolution' - a culture we live in now, celebrating the individual, which is far removed from that prior to the 'long sixties'.
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