According to Oxford English Dictionary, counterculture is a radical culture especially among the young that rejects established social values and practices; a mode of life opposed to the conventional lifestyle. In addition, John Milton Yinger also suggests the use of the term contraculture as “wherever the normative system of a group contains, as a primary element, a theme of conflict with the values of the total society, where personality variables are directly involved in the development and maintenance of the group’s values, and wherever its norms can be understood only by reference to the relationships of the group to a surrounding dominant culture”. To put it simply, this so-called counterculture movement is a historical movement held by a group of people whose values, norms, and behavior contradict with those of the established mainstream culture. In United Kingdom, the beginning of counterculture movement was started in the 1950s. There were so many anti-nuclear demonstrations attended by thousands of people around that time. A series of march had been held for days with people having their guitars and singing songs during the demonstration which is also another aspect of youth culture that was emerging around that time. This received a lot of press coverage and was the first mass protest of the post war period. It turned out that it was not welcomed with open arms by the government and ended with the eventual use of force and violence by the police officers as protests and student unrest increased.
Although it was first flourished in the United Kingdom, the counterculture movement was more popular in the United States around 1960s as a reaction against the conservative social norms, the political conservatism, social repression of the Cold War period, and the U.S. government’s military intervention in Vietnam. As the 1960s progressed, widespread tensions developed in American society that tended to flow along generational lines regarding the war in Vietnam, race relations, women’s rights, traditional modes of authority, experimentation with psychedelic drugs, the height of extravagant fashion, and a materialist interpretation of the American Dream. The counterculture movement also took hold in Western Europe, with London, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, and Rome rivaling San Francisco and New York City as counterculture centers. One manifestation of this was students’ mass strike that took place in Paris in May 1968, which nearly overturned the French government. In Central Europe, young people adopted the song “San Francisco” as an anthem for freedom, and it was widely played during Czechoslovakia’s “Prague Spring” an initial attempt to break away from Soviet repression.
Meanwhile in Soviet Union, although not exactly equivalent to the English definition, the Russian term Kontrkul’tura found a constant use in Russian to define a cultural movement that promotes acting outside usual conventions of Russian culture: the use of explicit language, graphical description of sex, violence, and illicit activities and uncopyrighted use of safe characters involved in everything mentioned.
Furthermore, the number of freedoms were encouraged within countercultural communities, which consisted of freedom to explore one’s potential, freedom to create one’s self, freedom of personal expression, freedom from scheduling, freedom from rigidly defined roles and hierarchical statuses. Furthermore, people who are involved in these communities tried to bring change into children’s education with a hope that it did not discourage the aesthetic sense, love of nature, passion for music, desire for reflection, or strongly desired independence. As the youth subculture began to spread and react against the established social conformity, new theories about cultural and personal identity began to spread, existentialism for instance. The Eastern philosophy and ideas, which particularly with regard to social organization, and spiritual enlightenment, were more frequently embraced to replace the mainstream Western values.