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Youth Cultures and Moral Panic Essay



Young people have a unique way of searching for identities and social positions. The media plays a critical role towards escalating these identities. Some local cultures might brainwash the youth and even affect their goals. According to Clarke, Hall, Jefferson, and Roberts (1976), the youths will always establish their own cultural groups. These groups embrace their definite practices and ideas. It is agreeable that such subcultures satisfy the needs of every member. Most of these needs are important to young persons. Adolescents embrace new behaviors, values, and norms that differ significantly from those of the wider society. This essay examines the issues surrounding the Hippie Subculture of the 1960s.

The Hippie Youth Cultural Group

Description of the Sub-cultural Group

The Hippie Subculture began as a powerful Youth Movement in the 1960s. The movement emerged in the United States and spread to different corners of the world. A few years before the movement, many American youths had tried to design new clothes and hairstyles that would eventually change the country’s culture.

This new culture revolutionized the ideals supported by the American society. For instance, the youths wanted to establish their groups. They also began to produce new songs and works of art. According to Clark et al. (1976), the individuals also promoted the concept of sexual revolution. The hippies began to use hardcore drugs such as marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. This cultural group wanted to create a new world without societal pressures or influences.

This new cultural group transformed the values of the mainstream society. This movement was significant because it changed the world’s culture. The famous Aquarius Festival of 1973 marked the achievements and successes of the hippies in Australia. This festival “was held in Nimbin” (Giroux, 2003, p. 58). The hippies staged similar ceremonies and festivals in different countries such as the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Chile.

As discussed above, this historical cultural group ignored the norms and practices embraced in their respective societies. The youths in the United States decided to live in harmony. They were not ready to support the issues existing in their communities such as racism and discrimination. These individuals also began to promote new music varieties. The practices were critical towards establishing new ideas in literature and film. Such events continued to reshape the whole world. A new popular image emerged in every part of the world. Krinsky (2006) believes strongly that most of the ideas, practices, values, and concepts associated with the hippie culture had become part of the global society by 1980.

The Hippie Subculture therefore redefined the world by resisting its original order. The individuals associated with this subculture were ready to express their views about the world. The “issues associated with this new culture encouraged more people from different backgrounds to embrace it” (Krinsky, 2006, p. 7). For instance, both African American and Latino youths began to embrace similar practices. These practices led to the establishment of a new culture in different parts of the world.

Does the Grouping Constitute a Subculture?

The hippies formed a sub-cultural group within the wider global culture. This exceptional subculture “had its beliefs, interests, and morals that are different from those of the larger society” (Cassell & Cramer, 2005, p. 57). That being the case, the hippie was a unique subculture that began in the United States. The subculture spread to different parts of the globe within a very short duration. This social group exhibited characteristic behavioral patterns thus distinguishing itself from the wider society.

Most of these values and fashions affected the world’s culture. These youths influenced “television, arts, and popular music” (Bennett, 1999, p. 613). It is agreeable that most of the facets of this subculture have today become common in different societies. The hippies embraced different religious and cultural diversities thus making their subculture recognizable. The Hippie Subculture “played a major role towards changing different practices such as music festivals, social celebrations, and sexual mores” (Cassell & Cramer, 2005, p. 59). These aspects explain why the Hippie Youth Movement eventually became a distinguishable subculture.

Activities Associated With Members of this Grouping

The hippies wanted the society to treat and view them as cool people. The subculture used images and attires to pass the intended messages to the society. These individuals wanted to detach themselves from the social values and practices that defined their contemporary culture. This group dissociated itself from the demands of the era.

The youngsters began to embrace new lifestyles that included the use of drugs such as heroin and marijuana (Giroux, 2003). The group was keen to react negatively to the ideas of war and militarism. This subculture “promoted the themes of love, global peace, and universal sisterhood” (Cassell & Cramer, 2005, p. 59). At the same time, the hippies supported their own thoughts without necessary conforming to their respective societies.

The other activities associated with this subculture “included music production, use of funny clothes, and promotion of their personal thoughts” (Cohen, 1973, p. 38). Many boys began to have long hairs than ever before. The subculture also created its ideas and concepts. Their lifestyles and activities attracted listeners from every part of the world. This fact explains why the Hippie Subculture became a major force. The individuals also began to use psychedelics thus defining their positions in the society (Cohen, 1973). The hippies were ready to be part of a new subculture that supported their beliefs, values, and ideas.

The hippies began to use various drugs with the ability to alter their minds. Many youths were ready to consume alcohol and smoke marijuana. Majority of the youths were willing to be part of this subculture. This practice became common in the United States and other societies across the globe. According to many scholars, the hippies used different psychedelic drugs because of their potential to improve their thinking capabilities. However, some youths began to wear funny clothes without necessarily having to use different addictive drugs (Cohen, 1973).

These people also worked hard to redefine every cultural more. The individuals believed strongly that their clothes would redefine their values and ideas. Ragged and brightly colored clothes were common during this period. The hippies began to wear jewelry and sandals. They also began to wear multicolored t-shirts. The practice distinguished the hippies from their parents. The individuals were against the idea of commercialism. This behavior made it easier for them to purchase secondhand clothes at cheaper prices (Springhall, 1998).

Most of these youths began to appreciate the power of religion. They “hippies were drawn to the beliefs of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism” (Cohen, 1973, p. 85). The acceptance of religion also played a powerful role towards transforming the lives and beliefs of these individuals. Many hippies became true believers and influenced their friends in a positive manner. The hippies also borrowed numerous religious symbols and made them part of their subculture.

They produced new songs and works of art that defined their beliefs. The hippies borrowed many ideas from every religion thus developing new behaviors. The “group was willing to experiment with every idea instead of being part of its mainstream society” (Cohen, 1973, p. 103). According to Critcher (2003), the Hippie Subculture made it possible for the society to create yoga centers and beauty shops.

The other activity associated with this subculture was the rejection of every social institution. According to the group, such institutions were inappropriate and corrupt. The best thing was to do away with them and establish better ones that understood their expectations (Bennett, 1999). According to these individuals believed, every original culture was either flawed or inadequate. The elders in the society wanted them to behave in a particular way in order to become acceptable (Critcher, 2003).

The subculture was ready to establish a new world. The youths behind this subculture wanted to find better meanings in their lives. They did so by opposing the production and use of nuclear warheads. This idea led to the end of the infamous Vietnam War. These hippies also rejected most of the values associated with the middle-class (Albury & Crawford, 2012). They embraced better ideas that could make the universe much better. Majority of the hippies became vegetarians and environmentalists. They wanted to have a friendly environment that could support the lives of their children.

This cultural group also “wanted to have sexual liberation” (Springhall, 1998, p. 68). They wanted to form sexual relationships with individuals from other racial backgrounds. The society wanted their children to marry individuals from their races. However, these hippies wanted things to become better and meaningful. The sub-cultural group also began to formulate new philosophies (Albury & Crawford, 2012).

The Hippie Youth Cultural Group (HYCG) participated in various street theaters and arts. The approach was critical towards establishing a new social order. Graffiti became a common feature in almost every urban area. These practices were relevant towards establishing a new lifestyle. Giroux (2003) also explains how these youths rejected political violence and social disorder. They strongly believed that such behaviors could affect the world. The important thing was to promote a better ideology that would eventually make the world much better for every human being.

Presentation in the Mainstream Media

The media played a major role towards analyzing the issues associated with this group. The mainstream media portrayed the group as a new movement that continued to transform the world. The media was also keen to broadcast most of the festivals and celebrations associated with the hippies. Many hippies continued to gather in various cities across the world. Such gatherings were common in Europe, Canada, and the United States. Different media houses covered most of these events such as the Summer of Love (Springhall, 1998). The event took place in 1967 when thousands of hippies gathered in San Francisco. The media coined the term “Hippie Revolution” to define the practices and ideas promoted by this cultural group.

The sensation caused by these media houses forced many individuals in the society to question the behaviors of this subculture. The media portrayed the sub-culture as an electric group that wanted to redefine itself. The “media also explained how such individuals were ready to integrate new insights, values, and ideas into their daily lives” (Krinsky, 2006, p. 8). Such individuals continued to reject various consumerist concepts. This discussion explains why mixed reactions emerged because of the Hippie Revolution. The media explained how the hippies remained suspicious of every story narrated by the government. New films and songs emerged thus promoting the ideas embraced by the hippies.

Did the sub-cultural group spark a moral panic?

According to Krinsky (2006, p. 10), “moral panic occurs when the media presents stories and reports that can cause anxiety or fear”. This fear occurs when such stories appear to threat an existing societal order. The Hippie Revolution attracted mixed reactions from different individuals and scholars. The sociological analysis of “drug-use, delinquency, and deviant behavior explain how such malpractices can promote social unrest” (Cohen, 1973, p. 95).

Most of the behaviors associated with the hippies sparked a major moral panic in different parts of the world. The behaviors and values embraced by the hippies supported the features of moral panic. For instance, the subculture “raised much concern in the society” (Cohen, 1973, p. 95). Many people in the society believed that their behaviors were capable of producing negative effects.

The mainstream society also became hostile against the youths thus calling them “folk devils” (Bennett, 1999, p. 608). This development resulted in new divisions between the society and the subculture. The agreeable fact is every moral panic associated with this revolution disappeared within a short period. According to Critcher (2003), social panic disappears when the media begins to bombard the people with different stories or topics. The agreeable fact is that the Hippie Revolution transformed the future of the world.


The Hippie Revolution was a major event that influenced many values and social practices. This movement was critical towards redefining the behaviors of the youth. Cultural and religious diversities became common in every part of the globe. New dressing styles emerged during the period. This revolution caused moral panics in many societies across the globe. The mainstream media also played a major role towards sensitizing more people about this subculture. The agreeable fact is that the Hippie Movement presented new practices and behaviors that would revolutionize the world.

Reference List

Albury, K., & Crawford, K. (2012). Sexting, consent and young people’s ethics: beyond Megan’s story. Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, 26(3), 463-473.

Bennett, A. (1999). Subcultures or Neo-Tribes? Rethinking the Relationship Between Youth, Style and Musical Taste. Sociology, 33(3), 599-617.

Cassell, J., & Cramer, M. (2005). High Tech or High Risk: Moral Panics about Girls Online. Center for Technology and Social Behavior, 1(1), 53-74.

Clarke, J., Hall, S., Jefferson, T., & Roberts, B. (1976). Subcultures, cultures and class. In S. Hall and T. Jefferson (Eds.), Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain (pp. 48-62). London, United Kingdom: Hutchinson.

Cohen, S. (1973). Deviance and Moral Panics. Paladin: St. Albans Press.

Critcher, C. (2003). Made in Britain: The Processual Model of Moral Panics. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Giroux, H. (2003). The abandoned generation: Democracy beyond the culture of fear. Millan: Palgrave.

Krinsky, C. (2006). Introduction: The Moral Panic Concept. Ashgate Research Companion, 1(1), 1-14.

Springhall, J. (1998). Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics: Penny Gaffs to Gangsta-Rap. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

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