What Happened in the Sixties?

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Point 5 of Nydwracu’s Priority Research Areas for Neoreaction is:
“What happened in the ‘60s?”

My guess would be: the death of conservatism. Except that that probably happened in the 1950s, and the sixties were a delayed reaction to the fact that progressivism no longer had any organised opposition.

The familiar neoreactionary story is that progressives have long had the upper hand, certainly since the death of Queen Anne in England, and from the very beginning in the American colonies. Modern leftism is simply descended from the whigs.

However, though they were dominant throughout the period 1714 – 1960, they were never entirely unchallenged. There were still Tories in positions of influence who maintained a coherent traditionalist political philosophy, and who (in the later period) accomodated with the age of democracy without ever accepting its assumptions.

That political force was dying in England by 1945. It was routed and destroyed by 1957. After two hundred years of advance by overcoming conservative opposition, progressivism was left completely unconstrained. Scattered discontents remained, but, without a living conservative movement or philosophy to draw from, they were not able to make arguments that would satisfy anyone.

Progressives responded by driving out potential rebels — first from academia, always a centre of progressivism but soon owned by them exclusively, and then from organised religion.

What we think of as “the sixties” was the gradual realisation by progressives that they could get away with anything. Every door they pushed on swung open, and there was a decade of exuberant pillage.

The end came as they gradually adapted to the fact that they were now the establishment, and needed to produce some measure of moderation from within. They started to address their contradictions among themselves: many of today’s basic political and cultural assumptions were decided somewhat arbitrarily in that 1970s settlement. (That, for instance, is where paedophiles failed to make the cut as a protected victim group). The recessions of the 1970s injected a note of realism into economic policy, and the enfeebled Conservative Party reenergised itelf, but basing its new opposing philosophy on classical liberalism rather than conservatism.

It was hard for me to understand the process, because, being born after the sixties, an actual conservative movement is something I have never seen. It was on its last legs in the first half of the century, but it really existed. This biography of Anthony Eden gives some clues as to what it looked like: patrician, honourable, suspicious of America, and doomed. There were presumably others like Eden, but today there are none.

This has obviously been a very anglocentric account. I would guess that the story for France would be fairly similar, though I don’t know, but that America was a bit different. The outcome seems to have been much the same in all three.

5 thoughts on “What Happened in the Sixties?”

  1. Yeah, Blank Slatism went virtually unchallenged in the 1950s. The few academics who dissented were blocked out of the media. The culture was drenched in Freudianism to a really absurd degree. The Frankfurt School's ant-Christian, anti-tradition "The Authoritarian Personality" was enthusiastically embraced by academia. The "American Way of Life" came to be wholly defined by consumerism. Bright spots were Joe McCarthy and TV and movie Westerns.

  2. I think the death of conservatism as a force amongst the ruling classes actually occurred much earlier, around the outbreak of World War I. The Parliament Bill Crisis broke the power of the House of Lords at nearly the same time the power of land owners was broken in the U.S. by the Federal Reserve Act and the 16th and 17th Amendments.

    Upon analysis, World War I may have been the final assault of the Left on the last bastions of conservatism capable of resisting it. Once Germany was broken, the Swiss would have to accept Finlandization, and all global finance would be under the control of the Left.

    In any event, the outcome of World War I established Leftism as the wave of the future of the ruling classes, and the rest of the 20th century was merely the evolutionary contest to select the dominant of the possible variants and gradually to remodel mass culture to conform to it.

    So the social upheavals of the 1960s were the final, open workings-out of a change in the ruling orders which had occurred two generations earlier.

  3. I just spotted Bruce Charlton's answer to the same question.

    "what happened in the 1960s was the sexual revolution, and the purpose driving the sexual revolution was the destruction of Christianity and its removal from public discourse. And the reason for this is that the Left is anti-Christian."

    I don't think the sexual revolution was a secret anti-christian conspiracy. Blaming promiscuous desire for social problems is like blaming greed for economic problems — it's always there so it has no explanatory power. The question is why people get away with sexual license or theft.

    And I stand by my answer: the sexual revolution happened because conservatism, mortally wounded, as Alexander Irwin observed above, by the first world war, had finally died in the the fifties.

    Where Charlton's observation fits is that the sexual revolution represents the final break between leftism and Christianity. Up to the sixties, Christian belief had been an important strand of leftism, and the left, though it had a large atheist component, kept the Christian left on-side for its major conflicts.

    From the sixties, the Christian left still existed, but in the absence of conservative opposition the mainstream (atheist) left no longer needed its support and no longer had to bother about its funny hangups with sex. Therefore the sexual revolution.

    There is an alternative explanation based on contraception and antibiotics. I think the sexual revolution would have happened anyway, though I'm sure they helped a bit.

  4. Clear Slatism gone virtually unchallenged inside the 1950s. The particular couple of academics whom dissented were being clogged out of your media. The particular traditions seemed to be soaked within Freudianism into a actually ludicrous diploma. The particular Frankfurt School's ant-Christian, anti-tradition "The Authoritarian Personality" seemed to be graciously embraced by means of academia. The particular "American Way of Life" was entirely described by means of consumerism. Brilliant places were being May well McCarthy and also TV SET and also motion picture Westerns.

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  5. Religious divides such as Lutheran vs. Catholic used to be a big deal even into the 60's in the US. This was probably a vestige of the old conservative and traditional attitudes in US culture. That all got washed away during the 60's.

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