Beyond the Barricades: The Sixties Generation Grows Up

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This book is a study of activists involved in radical politics during the movement of the 1960s, centered on a group of students at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The authors selected a core group of students who were arrested for their role (or presumed role) in a series of riots in the city of Isla Vista, one of which culminated in the burning of the local branch of the Bank of America. The authors believe that this group, by virtue of their actions, can be considered radicals, and from that premise, Whalen and Flacks interviewed the students over a period of about fifteen years to determine how radical politics influenced their lives and how involved they were in politics as they grew older.

The book was written to examine whether the common belief, that hippies and student activists grew up and became yuppies and conservatives was accurate. According to Whalen and Flacks, the belief is a myth–most activists, while less politically active than during the 1960s, are still influenced by the radical politics of their youth. Most of the activists remained politically active, although their politics shifted to more local issues with the lack of a national “left” movement in the United States. In addition, the authors also interviewed sorority and fraternity students as a point of comparison, using these two groups as a way of contrasting how the former activists and non-activists lived. Not surprisingly, the non-activists were more likely to support conservative candidates and work for large corporations.

While this study is dated, it is an interesting look at how a group of student radicals confronted the end of a social movement and how they struggled to remain active. I would like to see if these people are still active, especially in light of the anti-globalization movement and the international movement against the recent invasion and continued occupation of Iraq, as these two movements provide many opportunities to get involved.

Jack Whalen and Richard Flacks, Beyond the Barricades: The Sixties Generation Grows Up, (Temple University Press, 1989).

Author: mediamouse

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