BEYOND THE BARRICADES: The Sixties Generation Grows Up by Jack & Richard Flacks Whalen

BEYOND THE BARRICADES: The Sixties Generation Grows Up

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Sociology professors Whalen (Univ. of Oregon) and Flacks (Univ of Cal. at Santa Barbara; Youth and Social Change and Making History: The American Left and the American Mind--not reviewed) trace the fate of Sixties activism by tracking 18 radical student activists through 1988. In 1979, Whalen, then a grad student in sociology, interviewed 11 former members of the Radical Union at the Univ. of California at Santa Barbara--each of them indicted in 1970 for burning the Bank of America during a much publicized student riot. Intrigued by the psychological changes these former radicals had gone through, Whalen teamed up with Flacks to chronicle the lasting impact of Sixties activism. Ultimately interviewing 18 Radical Union members--compared with a control group of conservative or apolitical fraternity and sorority members--the sociologists describe how the fiery idealism of the Sixties transformed individual lives. By 1979, all the former activists were still experiencing personal turmoil and disillusionment--the aftershocks of the collapse of the movement. By 1984, contrary to the popular image of the radical-turned-yuppie, many of them had come to live by a kind of code: None worked for defense contractors or multinational corporations; none supported Reagan-era policies or worked at high-paying jobs that manipulated people (one woman worked in advertising but justified it by claiming she worked on the morally neutral production side). By 1988, most of the former radicals had come to live out their values privately--e.g., a radical who went to medical school came to oversee a statewide health and safety program--while only a few had opted for retreat from society, and none had ""sold out."" Whalen and Flacks are true Sixties sociologists--hip white knights who ride out to slay the ideal-crushing dragon of ""The Big Chill."" In all, a heart-on-the sleeve, hopeful study that should appeal to social psychologists and Sixties sympathizers.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 1989
Publisher: Temple Univ. Press