The Success of the Counterculture in Becoming the Dominant Culture

Commentary By the late 1970s, after fantasies of overt political revolution faded, many student radicals urged their followers to undertake the “long march through the institutions.” The phrase, popularized by the German New Leftist Rudi Dutschke, is often attributed to the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci—an unimpeachable authority for countercultural standard-bearers. But of course the phrase also carries the aura of an even higher authority: that of Mao Tse-tung and his long march and cultural revolution. In the context of Western societies, “the long march through the institutions” signified—in the words of Herbert Marcuse—“working against the established institutions while working in them.” It was primarily by this means—by insinuation and infiltration rather than confrontation—that the countercultural dreams of radicals like Marcuse have triumphed. Bellbottoms, long hair, and incense were dispensable props; crucial was the hedonistic yet hectoring antinomianism they symbolized. In this sense, countercultural radicalism has come more and more …

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