The term counterculture was used for the first time in the 20th century , in the 1960s, to refer to the emergence of protest movements by youth against the dominant culture . Its distinctive features include free love, hedonism, the use of psychedelic drugs, feminism , among others. Although the expression counterculture has several meanings, it is necessary to distinguish within it, diverse tendencies, in particular, those that are called “new culture” , “cultural rupture” , or “the search for balance” .

What is the counterculture?

The counterculture refers to a set of cultural manifestations, attitudes, values, norms used by a group, which opposes or rejects a dominant culture . This term was created by the sociologist Theodore Roszak and serves to designate a subculture of a particular genre.

  • Characteristics of the counterculture
  • Story
  • Some countercultural movements
  • Counterculture examples

Characteristics of the counterculture

  • He inverts the norms and values ​​of the dominant culture and defines himself with respect to it.
  • It is presented as the antithesis of the dominant culture at all levels. For example, for modern technology, the counterculture would be traditional and artisanal knowledge.
  • Promote sexual freedom .
  • It is generally opposed to the consumer society . However, the elements of the counterculture are taken up by the commercial system that transforms them into advertising slogans or new products. For example, faded or torn pants are currently being sold.
  • Value nature .
  • Promote respect for minorities .


The phenomenon of counterculture in principle originated in the United States and that is where he had his most profound effects. American influence spread to other parts of the world, especially Western Europe . It was always associated with protest movements.


It is the American historian Theodore Roszak , who in 1968, used the term counterculture in his work The Birth of a Counterculture . Certainly, there have been countercultural manifestations in all societies, but this expression refers particularly to an organized movement that lasts for a certain period of time . Examples that could illustrate the phenomenon of the counterculture are the Beat Generation that took place in the 50s, the hippie movement of the 60s or the punk movement that originated in later years.

Some countercultural movements

Hippie movement

The word hippie is derived from the term “hip” in English which means “initiated” , in relation to what is new or of unknown origin. For others, it comes from the African word “hipi” which means “to open the eyes” . In any case, this movement of the 1960s was considered anti-conformist and was thus opposed to the pre-established society at the time. The hippies proposed new norms and values ​​that belonged to their counterculture. Thus, they claimed a new identity negatively defined by the dominant society . Its origin comes from the Beat Generation  of the 50s.

Punk movement

It is a movement that started in the working class of England and had a huge impact on the social and music scene in different parts of the world. This movement was shown against the established order and social injustice . However, its essence was distorted due to the commercial interests of the musical world.

Feminist movement

The feminism was one of the most important political events of the 20th century The sex difference is universal and transversal since it impacts all classes, classes, religions, etc. Feminists demonstrated that men’s domination over women was not natural but rather a social construction that had to be fought and abolished. This movement exalts feminine values ​​and in some cases, even repudiates the masculine.

The underground comic

The underground comic emerged as a response against the industrial comic that was satisfied with transmitting a message in accordance with established social norms . This comic proposal wanted to show the true reality that was lived in the United States . Its graphic language, its aesthetics broke with what was seen in traditional comics.

Counterculture examples


Although the counterculture was born in the United States, the phenomenon spread rapidly in Latin America where, unexpectedly, it found a privileged way of expression in literature , especially during the 1960s and 1970s with the literary movement called la Wave . Its best-known protagonist was the Mexican writer José Agustín , who considered that the counterculture was the expression of youth and of groups that, from marginality, surpass, reject and confront the institutional culture.


During the 1980s , the last decade of the Pinochet dictatorship, several clandestine artistic manifestations of cultural resistance emerged that opposed this dictatorial regime. This is how meeting places such as the Matucana 19 or the Trolley were created where cultural expressions such as dance, painting, comics or theater converged.

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