Dougan argues for the continued relevance of hippies in this work of popular social science.
The hippies, with their roots in the 1960s American counterculture, have given the world many things, from the popularization of the environmental movement and organic food to the introduction of yoga and meditation in the West and figures such as Jim Henson and Steve Jobs. In this debut book, Dougan argues that the hippies have never gone away, despite attempts by the media to undermine them and by the political right to demonize them. He writes that “we can’t understand modern American politics and history” without the hippies; “it’s like watching a play, and since one of the most important characters is invisible or can’t be acknowledged, we’re puzzled.” Over the course of the book, he attempts to convince readers that hippies bear all the characteristics of an ethnic group and that they’re persecuted by mainstream society, even as they offer it prized cultural contributions. He then goes into hippie-specific issues—yes, including marijuana—and calls for the creation of a “Hippie-American” ethnic organization to promote social equity for its members. Dougan’s case for the continued existence of a vibrant counterculture is persuasive. However, he runs into trouble with his insistence on referring to hippies as an ethnicity (albeit a “synthetic” one). His comparisons to nondiscretionary ethnicities, such as the Amish, and the persecution they face are likely to rub many readers the wrong way, which undermines Dougan’s larger argument about hippies’ importance. The author sees neoconservatives as his primary adversaries (and mentions them with frequency), but the more damaging critique of hippies in 2016 is likely to come from critics on the left, who have noted that hippies were and are predominantly white people who’ve appropriated a lot of material culture—from ponchos to rock music—from marginalized groups. There are likely better ways of acknowledging the contributions of hippies without granting them ethnic-minority status.
A detailed, if overly defensive, analysis of 50 years of hippie culture.