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The counterculture of the 1960s refers to an anti-establishment cultural phenomenon that developed first in the United States and the United Kingdom, and then spread throughout much of the Western world between the early 1960s and the mid-1970s, with London, New York City and later San Francisco being hotbeds of early countercultural activity. The aggregate movement gained momentum as the African-American Civil Rights Movement continued to grow, and became revolutionary with the expansion of the US government's extensive military intervention in Vietnam.

As the 1960s progressed, widespread social tensions also developed concerning other issues, and tended to flow along generational lines regarding human sexuality, women's rights, traditional modes of authority, experimentation with psychoactive drugs, and differing interpretations of the American Dream.

As the era unfolded, new cultural forms and a dynamic subculture which celebrated experimentation, modern incarnations of Bohemianism, and the rise of the hippie and other alternative lifestyles, emerged. This embracing of creativity is particularly notable in the works of British Invasion bands such as the Beatles, and filmmakers whose works became far less restricted by censorship. In addition to the trendsetting Beatles, many other creative artists, authors, and thinkers, within and across many disciplines, helped define the counterculture movement.

Several factors distinguished the counterculture of the 1960s from the anti-authoritarian movements of previous eras. The post-World War II "baby boom" generated an unprecedented number of potentially disaffected young people as prospective participants in a rethinking of the direction of American and other democratic societies. Post-war affluence allowed many of the counterculture generation to move beyond a focus on the provision of the material necessities of life that had preoccupied their Depression-era parents. The era was also notable in that a significant portion of the array of behaviors and "causes" within the larger movement were quickly assimilated within mainstream society, particularly in the US.

The counterculture era essentially commenced in earnest with the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy. It became absorbed into the popular culture with the termination of US combat military involvement in the communist insurgencies of Southeast Asia and the end of the draft in 1973, and ultimately with the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in August 1974.

Many key movements were born of, or were advanced within, the counterculture of the 1960s. Each movement is relevant to the larger era. The most important stand alone, irrespective of the larger counterculture.

In the broadest sense, 1960s counterculture grew from a confluence of people, ideas, events, issues, circumstances, and technological developments which served as intellectual and social catalysts for exceptionally rapid change during the era.


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