Where Have All the Flowers Gone? A Sociological Analysis of the Origins and Content of Youth Values of the Seventies

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This paper presents a theoretical explanation of the origins and content of youth values of the seventies. These values are hypothesized as revolving around various dimensions of a self orientation - hedonism, escapism and a present orientation. It is argued that youth's self orientedness is a function of the affluence of the times where individuals no longer have to devote their daily life routines to a blind compulsive pursuit of the success goal. Rather, the complexities and competitive pressures of modern life combined with the symbols of success being universally available to practically everyone has produced an anomic condition which manifests itself in self oriented activity. The specific content of the values which are indicative of this self orientation are traced to the countercultural movement of the Viet-Nam war generation. Use of drugs and permissive sexual standards, behaviors which characterize the present generation of youth, represented the means by which the Viet-Nam war generation instilled solidarity against the war. Today, drug use and sexual permissiveness symbolizes the hedonistic, escapist self orientation which dominates young people of our time. Faced with the disillusioning events of the past decade coupled with the introspective pressures generated by the anomie of affluence, today's youth have withdrawn from expressing concern about events occurring in society (which they feel helpless to control) to a concern about one's self. It appears that in the modern mass society, escapism and hedonism are symptomatic of the feeling that today people have nothing to believe in - no wars, no causes, no villains, no heroes. All that remains is the overwhelming cynicism of the times due to peoples' declining faith in the viability of the basic institutions of the society.