BERKELEY IN THE SIXTIES

 

Next week, we will be looking at the rise of a protest movement in the 1960s, and the emergence of a counterculture.

 

To introduce this theme, this coming Monday, we will be devoting most of the class to watching a portion of a documentary about Berkeley in the 1960s. What I want you to notice here is how very quickly the transition comes from the relative tranquillity of the 1950s to the revolutionary radicalism of the late 1960s, especially with the Berkeley Free Speech Movement (FSM) of 1964.

 

Among many other things, pay attention to how people's clothes and hairstyles change in a VERY short time, between about 1962 (dark suit and crewcut) to 1965 (hippie garb, long hair and mustaches). It's only a superficial feature, but it does symbolize some real changes in cultural attitudes that are going on below the surface. A revolution of sorts is taking place. Also, see how the changes are summarized and accelerated through music, through rock, folk and protest - listen especially to the songs of Phil Ochs, who we see perform in this film. In other words, don't just be impressed by the scale of the change, but by its quite amazing speed: note how rapidly new and previously unthinkable ideas emerge.

 

Why does all this happen? Was it a result of changes in the structure of the universities themselves? How far can the process of radicalization be blamed on errors and misjudgments by the authorities? Could things have worked out differently? How far does the radical movement develop from particular circumstances in Berkeley, and how far is it a reflection of national trends? Notice how local specific demands (keeping the free speech area open in Berkeley itself) merge into much wider global causes about civil rights, Vietnam, etc

 

Also, note how very conservative even the radicals seem by later standards - note for instance how slow the radical movement is to take women at all seriously.

 

We'll discuss the film and its implications in detail on Wednesday. But in the meantime, of you want to read up on what is happening in this story, see the account of Berkeley in these years on-line at

http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/berkeley.html