An anti-establishment view or belief is one which stands in opposition to the conventional social, political, and economic principles of a society. The term was first used in the modern sense in 1958, by the British magazine New Statesman to refer to its political and social agenda. [The Compact Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, Clarendon Press, 1991. ISBN 0-19-861258-3] The term can be distinguished from counterculture, a word normally used to describe artistic rather than political movements that run against the prevailing taste and values of the time.Fact|date=February 2007

Although the term has retained its original meaning in British English and continues to be applied to various individuals and groups, in American English the term is used more specifically to describe certain social and political movements that occurred during the 1950s and 1960s.Fact|date=February 2007

Anti-establishment figures in the United Kingdom

In the UK anti-establishment figures and groups are seen as those who argue or act against the ruling class. Having an established church, a British monarchy, an aristocracy, and an unelected upper house in Parliament made up in part by hereditary nobles, the UK certainly has a clearly definable Establishment against which anti-establishment figures can be contrasted. In particular, satirical humour is commonly used to undermine the deference shown by the majority of the population towards those who govern them. Examples of British anti-establishment satire include much of the humour of Peter Cook and Ben Elton; novels such as Rumpole of the Bailey; magazines such as Private Eye; and television programmes like Spitting Image, Rumpole of the Bailey, That Was The Week That Was, and The Prisoner (see also the satire boom of the 1960s). Anti-establishment themes also can be seen in the novels of writers such as Will Self. [cite web|url=|title=Self Destruction|author=Chris Mitchell|publisher=Spike Magazine|accessdate=2006-10-20]

However, by operating through the arts and media, the line between politics and culture is blurred, so that pigeonholing figures such as Banksy as either anti-establishment or counter-culture figures can be difficult. [cite web|url=|title=Faces of the week|author=BBC|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-20] The tabloid newspapers such as The Sun, are less subtle, and commonly report on the sex-lives of the Royals simply because it sells papers, but in the process have been described as having anti-establishment views that have weakened traditional institutions. [cite web|url=|title=Prince fears media embarrassment|author=BBC|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-20] On the other hand, as time passes, anti-establishment figures sometimes end up becoming part of the Establishment, as when The Who frontman Roger Daltrey was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005 in recognition of both his music and his work for charity. [cite web|url=|title=Who singer Daltrey collects CBE|author=BBC|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2006-10-20]

The pop term "Anti-Establishment" in the United States

Individuals who were anti-establishment often spoke of "fighting the man", selling out to the Establishment, and "tearing down the Establishment." Many historical figures innovated great changes to society by standing up to "the Establishment", including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. In many publications including pop ones, Jesus was said to have been anti-establishment because he defied convention and the local authorities.

The "Establishment" to these, and to modern-day liberals, was not simply the people of the older generation. It encapsulated all of American society, so included the socio-economic "military-industrial complex", a complacent and conservative "Middle America", a legal system that perpetuated the status quo, religions that required unquestioning obedience, and the juggernaut of tradition and custom that demanded "conformity". However, some conservatives claim that liberalism itself now constitutes the Establishment in America due to its perceived influence on government, media, society and academia.

Early Usage

The anti-Establishment push began in the 1940s and simmered through the 1950s. Many World War II veterans, who had seen horrors and inhumanity, began to question every aspect of life, including its meaning. Urged to return to "normal lives", plagued by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (and unable to discuss it as not being "manly"), many veterans found suburbia cloying and empty.

A vague unease spawned diverse paths. The Hells Angels was originally composed of WWII veterans feeling rebellious: the name came from WWII fighting units. The image of Marlon Brando as a motorcycle rebel in "The Wild Ones" and James Dean as a "Rebel Without a Cause" horrified some Americans and electrified others. Some veterans founded the Beats Movement, then were denigrated as "Beatniks" and accused of being "downbeat" on everything. Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote a Beat autobiography that cited his wartime service.

Many people craved angry "true" commentary such as Lenny Bruce's acid-tongued comedy, or simply a desire for more personal freedom, even "vices". Playboy magazine, with its famous nudes, was the first skin mag sold alongside national magazines, and caused a scandal and backlash.

Many women also harbored a deep resentment. During the war years, they had been encouraged to assume men's roles in industry, both white collar and blue collar. Rosie the Riveter was a national icon. But after the war, women were forced to give up their jobs and become homemakers.

Citizens had also begun to question authority, especially after the Gary Powers U2 Incident, where President Eisenhower repeatedly assured people the USA was not spying on Russia, then was caught in a blatant lie. This general dissatisfaction was popularized by Peggy Lee's laconic pop song "Is That All There Is?", but remained unspoken and unfocused. It wasn't until the Baby Boomers came along in huge numbers that protest became organized (or disorganized in the case of the hippies), who were named by the Beats as "little hipsters".


"Anti-Establishment" became a buzzword of the tumultuous 1960s. Young people raised in comparative luxury saw many wrongs perpetuated by society and began to question "the Establishment". Contentious issues included the ongoing Vietnam War with no clear goal or end point, the constant military build-up and diversion of funds for the Cold War, perpetual wide-spread poverty being ignored, money-wasting boondoggles like pork barrel projects and the Space Race, festering race issues, a stultifying education system, repressive laws and harsh sentences for casual drug use, and a general malaise among the older generation. On the other side, "Middle America" often regarded questions as accusations, and saw the younger generation as spoiled, drugged-out, sex-crazed, unambitious slackers.

Anti-Establishment debates were common because they touched on everyday aspects of life. Even innocent questions could escalate into angry diatribes. For example, "Why do we spend millions on a foreign war and a space program when our schools are falling apart?" would be answered with "We need to keep our military strong and ready to stop the Communists from taking over the world." As in any debate, there were valid and unsupported arguments on both sides. "Make love not war" invoked "America, love it or leave it."

As the 1960s simmered, the anti-Establishment adopted conventions in opposition to the Establishment. T-shirts and blue jeans became the uniform of the young because their parents wore collar shirts and slacks. Drug use, with its illegal panache, was favored over the legal consumption of alcohol. Promoting peace and love was the antidote to promulgating hatred and war. Living in genteel poverty was more "honest" than amassing a nest egg and a house in the suburbs. Rock 'n roll was played loud over Easy listening. Dodging the draft was passive resistance to traditional military service. Dancing was free-style, not learned in a ballroom. Over time, anti-establishment messages crept into popular culture: songs, fashion, movies, lifestyle choices, television.

The emphasis on freedom allowed previously hushed conversations about sex, politics, or religion to be openly discussed. A wave of "liberations" came out of 1960s: the Feminist movement, the Black Panthers and Black Power, Gay Rights, Native American awareness, even "Gray Power" for elders. Programs were put in place to deal with inequities: Equal Opportunity Employment, the Head Start Program, enforcement of the Civil Rights Act, busing, and others. But the widespread dissemination of new ideas also sparked a backlash and resurgence in conservative religions, new segregated private schools, anti-gay and anti-abortion legislation, and other reversals. Extremists tended to be heard more because they made good copy for newspapers and television. In many ways, the angry debates of the 1960s led to modern right-wing talk radio and coalitions for "traditional family values".

As the 1960s passed, society had changed to the point that the definition of the Establishment had blurred, and the term "anti-establishment" fell out of use.In India, the 1960s saw emergence of a group of writers who called themselves Hungryalists. They were the first anti-establishment writers in Bengal whose dissenting voice drew attention of the government and court cases were filed against them.(reference: Amritalok ISSN.0971-4308)

The Right as "Anti-Establishment"

Despite the establishment usually being associated with the right, some conservatives have asserted that liberalism has been the establishment at least since the 1970s and even as far back as the 1930s. They argue that many sections of society, such as the mainstream media and the school system are controlled by the left. Others argue that this liberal establishment manifests itself in popular culture, in the views of many Hollywood celebrities and other forms of Political Correctness, in peer-pressure, and in the natural societal expectation that young people will probably be liberal. Fact|date=March 2008

However, this view is often criticized by the left, who say that the right is still the establishment, they often cite the Bush administration, the predominance of conservative economists and the power of the Christian Right.Fact|date=March 2008

ee also

* New Left
* Hungry generation


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