The issue of whether there was a cultural revolution during the sixties depends on what constitutes a counter culture, and whether the activities that took place fall within this definition, and did they go as far as to create a cultural revolution. Culture comprises of practices and products as well as attitudes and values. Roszak offered an insightful viewpoint on a youth culture which he wrote ‘radically diverges from values and assumptions that have been the mainstream of our society’.
He considered a counter-culture was espousing a strong minority of dissenting youths along with their adult mentors, as a struggle against technocratic totalitarianism. Roszak considered the members of the counter-culture to be extremely limited. He even excludes the black activists as a wholly separate group, who many consider underwent important cultural changes during the sixties. At the time Roszak’s book hit a chord with many readers, but it rapidly became dated, and it seems rather implausible that such a small group of people could make the sweeping changes predicted by Roszak.
However, this does not mean that there was no counter-cultural activity during the sixties. The technocratic totalitarianism that Roszak described was a term to describe a society which had scientifically developed to such a degree as to live the ordinary citizen befuddled and subservient to ‘experts’. Government falls prey to sublime techniques of technocratic control, eliminating the freedoms of a democracy. Undoubtedly there were vast changes in science and technology during the sixties, due to increased government budgets.
Radical groups such as the Wicca group Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell denounced the use of science, demanding a ‘science for the people’. The general feeling held by critics was that science had become seriously militarized and dedicated to destroying rather than improving mankind. Roszak deplored the idea of objectivity and preached an approach where non-intellectual capabilities should rule supreme. The idea that a successful society could be built upon allowing emotions to ultimately rule is rather absurd and lends discredit to Roszak’s theories.
Facts are facts and can often be relied upon; it would be very difficult to gain a consensus of emotions. Government depends on consensus. The counter culture that Roszak foresees could never have occurred. Many individuals at the time were supportive of this view, and promoted emotional development, but it had a limited lifespan, and was never a threat to society’s tenets. It is illustrative that the WITCHES did not survive beyond the sixties, although the group they were attacking, the AAS, now serves over 260 organisations and 10 million people.
Eisenhower voiced anxiety on the rise of military industrial activity on leaving office in 1961. He was disturbed that intellectual freedom in research was being replaced by government employed scientists working to achieve a goal, rather than researching for pure gain for knowledge. He saw future problems being caused by the government dependence on science, which could lead to the scientific-technological elite controlling public policy. The US had increased its science funding by ten times during WWII, the major outcomes of which were the discoveries of atomic weapons and radar, both essential to the outcome of the war.
Changes in scientific developments, like those within MIT were changing the way scientists were employed, and dissolving boundaries within science – producing vast results. Despite this, and Eisenhower’s predictions the changes in science have not expanded to a degree as to threaten government control. The images of a lone scientist in a laboratory may have been rather old fashioned and idealistic, even Einstein worked in university laboratories with fellow scientists. Although there were sweeping changes in science during the sixties, to an extent science always has existed to serve society, and to meet needs generated by society.
Science has developed to meet changing needs; from a need to understand basic concepts (such as the theory of relativity) to being able to manipulate this knowledge (into quantum mechanics). During the sixties, increased funding was made to meet increased needs, leading to big changes in the way science and technology operated within society, but there is no evidence that these changes had the kind of severe long term implications on wider society described by Roszak or Eisenhower. Edward Shils also felt that the scientists had become subservient to the demands of the government, the military and the private industry.