An anti-establishment view or belief is one which stands in opposition to the conventional social, political, and economic principles of a society. The term was first used in the modern sense in 1958, by the British magazine New Statesman
New Statesman
New Statesman is a British centre-left political and cultural magazine published weekly in London. Founded in 1913, and connected with leading members of the Fabian Society, the magazine reached a circulation peak in the late 1960s....

 to refer to its political and social agenda. The term can be distinguished from counterculture
Counterculture is a sociological term used to describe the values and norms of behavior of a cultural group, or subculture, that run counter to those of the social mainstream of the day, the cultural equivalent of political opposition. Counterculture can also be described as a group whose behavior...

, a word normally used to describe artistic rather than political movements that run against the prevailing taste and values of the time.

Although the term has retained its original meaning in British English
British English
British English, or English , is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere...

 and continues to be applied to various individuals and groups, in American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

 the term is used more specifically to describe certain social and political movements that occurred during the 1950s and 1960s.

Anti-establishment figures in the United Kingdom

In the UK anti-establishment figures and groups are seen as those who argue or act against the ruling class
Ruling class
The term ruling class refers to the social class of a given society that decides upon and sets that society's political policy - assuming there is one such particular class in the given society....

. Having an established church, a British monarchy
Royal family
A royal family is the extended family of a king or queen regnant. The term imperial family appropriately describes the extended family of an emperor or empress, while the terms "ducal family", "grand ducal family" or "princely family" are more appropriate to describe the relatives of a reigning...

, an aristocracy
Aristocracy , is a form of government in which a few elite citizens rule. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning "rule of the best". In origin in Ancient Greece, it was conceived of as rule by the best qualified citizens, and contrasted with monarchy...

, and an unelected upper house
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 in Parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 made up in part by hereditary nobles
Hereditary peer
Hereditary peers form part of the Peerage in the United Kingdom. There are over seven hundred peers who hold titles that may be inherited. Formerly, most of them were entitled to sit in the House of Lords, but since the House of Lords Act 1999 only ninety-two are permitted to do so...

, the UK certainly has a clearly definable Establishment
The Establishment
The Establishment is a term used to refer to a visible dominant group or elite that holds power or authority in a nation. The term suggests a closed social group which selects its own members...

 against which anti-establishment figures can be contrasted. In particular, satirical humour
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 is commonly used to undermine the deference shown by the majority of the population towards those who govern them. Examples of British anti-establishment satire include much of the humour of Peter Cook
Peter Cook
Peter Edward Cook was an English satirist, writer and comedian. An extremely influential figure in modern British comedy, he is regarded as the leading light of the British satire boom of the 1960s. He has been described by Stephen Fry as "the funniest man who ever drew breath," although Cook's...

 and Ben Elton
Ben Elton
Benjamin Charles "Ben" Elton is an English comedian, author, playwright and director. He was a leading figure in the British alternative comedy movement of the 1980s, as a writer on such cult series as The Young Ones and Blackadder, as well as also a successful stand-up comedian on stage and TV....

; novels such as Rumpole of the Bailey
Rumpole of the Bailey
Rumpole of the Bailey is a British television series created and written by the British writer and barrister John Mortimer which starred Leo McKern as Horace Rumpole, an ageing London barrister who defends any and all clients...

; magazines such as Private Eye
Private Eye
Private Eye is a fortnightly British satirical and current affairs magazine, edited by Ian Hislop.Since its first publication in 1961, Private Eye has been a prominent critic and lampooner of public figures and entities that it deemed guilty of any of the sins of incompetence, inefficiency,...

; and television programmes like Spitting Image
Spitting Image
Spitting Image is a British satirical puppet show that aired on the ITV network from 1984 to 1996. It was produced by Spitting Image Productions for Central Television. The series was nominated for 10 BAFTA Awards, winning one for editing in 1989....

, Rumpole of the Bailey
Rumpole of the Bailey
Rumpole of the Bailey is a British television series created and written by the British writer and barrister John Mortimer which starred Leo McKern as Horace Rumpole, an ageing London barrister who defends any and all clients...

, That Was The Week That Was
That Was The Week That Was
That Was The Week That Was, also known as TW3, is a satirical television comedy programme that was shown on BBC Television in 1962 and 1963. It was devised, produced and directed by Ned Sherrin and presented by David Frost...

, and The Prisoner
The Prisoner
The Prisoner is a 17-episode British television series first broadcast in the UK from 29 September 1967 to 1 February 1968. Starring and co-created by Patrick McGoohan, it combined spy fiction with elements of science fiction, allegory and psychological drama.The series follows a British former...

 (see also the satire boom
Satire boom
The satire boom is a general term to describe the emergence of a generation of English satirical writers, journalists and performers at the end of the 1950s. The satire boom is often regarded as having begun with the first performance of Beyond the Fringe on 22 August 1960 and ending around...

 of the 1960s). Anti-establishment themes also can be seen in the novels of writers such as Will Self
Will Self
William Woodard "Will" Self is an English novelist and short story writer. His fictional style is known for being satirical, grotesque, and fantastical. He is a prolific commentator on contemporary British life, with regular appearances on Newsnight and Question Time...


However, by operating through the arts and media, the line between politics and culture is blurred, so that pigeonholing
Pigeonholing is a term used to describe processes that attempt to classify disparate entities into a small number of categories ....

 figures such as Banksy
Banksy is a pseudonymous England-based graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter.His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine irreverent dark humour with graffiti done in a distinctive stencilling technique...

 as either anti-establishment or counter-culture figures can be difficult. The tabloid
Tabloid journalism
Tabloid journalism tends to emphasize topics such as sensational crime stories, astrology, gossip columns about the personal lives of celebrities and sports stars, and junk food news...

 newspapers such as The Sun
The Sun (newspaper)
The Sun is a daily national tabloid newspaper published in the United Kingdom and owned by News Corporation. Sister editions are published in Glasgow and Dublin...

, are less subtle, and commonly report on the sex-lives of the Royals
House of Windsor
The House of Windsor is the royal house of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V by royal proclamation on the 17 July 1917, when he changed the name of his family from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the English Windsor, due to the anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom...

 simply because it sells papers, but in the process have been described as having anti-establishment views that have weakened traditional institutions. On the other hand, as time passes, anti-establishment figures sometimes end up becoming part of the Establishment, as Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger
Sir Michael Philip "Mick" Jagger is an English musician, singer and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist and a founding member of The Rolling Stones....

, the Rolling Stones frontman, became a Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

 in 2003, or when The Who
The Who
The Who are an English rock band formed in 1964 by Roger Daltrey , Pete Townshend , John Entwistle and Keith Moon . They became known for energetic live performances which often included instrument destruction...

 frontman Roger Daltrey
Roger Daltrey
Roger Harry Daltrey, CBE , is an English singer and actor, best known as the founder and lead singer of English rock band The Who. He has maintained a musical career as a solo artist and has also worked in the film industry, acting in a large number of films, theatre and television roles and also...

 was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 in 2005 in recognition of both his music and his work for charity.

The pop term "Anti-Establishment" in the United States

Individuals who were anti-establishment often spoke of "fighting the man
The Man
"The Man" is a slang phrase that may refer to the government or to some other authority in a position of power. In addition to this derogatory connotation, it may also serve as a term of respect and praise....

", selling out to the Establishment, and "tearing down the Establishment." Many historical figures innovated great changes to society by standing up to "the Establishment
The Establishment
The Establishment is a term used to refer to a visible dominant group or elite that holds power or authority in a nation. The term suggests a closed social group which selects its own members...

", including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X
Malcolm X
Malcolm X , born Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz , was an African American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its...

, George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 and William Tyndale
William Tyndale
William Tyndale was an English scholar and translator who became a leading figure in Protestant reformism towards the end of his life. He was influenced by the work of Desiderius Erasmus, who made the Greek New Testament available in Europe, and by Martin Luther...


The "Establishment" to these, and to modern-day liberals, was not simply the people of the older generation. It encapsulated all of American society, so included the socio-economic "military-industrial complex
Military-industrial complex
Military–industrial complex , or Military–industrial-congressional complex is a concept commonly used to refer to policy and monetary relationships between legislators, national armed forces, and the industrial sector that supports them...

", a complacent and conservative "Middle America", a legal system that perpetuated the status quo, religions that required unquestioning obedience, and the juggernaut of tradition and custom that demanded "conformity".

Early Usage

The anti-Establishment push began in the 1940s and simmered through the 1950s. Many World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

A veteran is a person who has had long service or experience in a particular occupation or field; " A veteran of ..."...

s, who had seen horrors and inhumanity, began to question every aspect of life, including its meaning. Urged to return to "normal lives", plagued by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (and unable to discuss it as not being "manly"), many veterans found suburbia
subUrbia is a play by Eric Bogosian chronicling the nighttime activities of a group of aimless 20-somethings still living in their suburban Boston hometown and their reunion with a former high school classmate who has become a successful musician...

 cloying and empty.

A vague unease spawned diverse paths. The Hells Angels
Hells Angels
The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is a worldwide one-percenter motorcycle gang and organized crime syndicate whose members typically ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. In the United States and Canada, the Hells Angels are incorporated as the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation. Their primary motto...

 was originally composed of WWII veterans feeling rebellious: the name came from WWII fighting units. The image of Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando, Jr. was an American movie star and political activist. "Unchallenged as the most important actor in modern American Cinema" according to the St...

 as a motorcycle rebel in The Wild One
The Wild One
The Wild One is a 1953 outlaw biker film directed by László Benedek and produced by Stanley Kramer. It is famed for Marlon Brando's iconic portrayal of the gang leader Johnny Strabler.-Basis:...

and James Dean
James Dean
James Byron Dean was an American film actor. He is a cultural icon, best embodied in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause , in which he starred as troubled Los Angeles teenager Jim Stark...

 as a Rebel Without a Cause
Rebel Without a Cause
Rebel Without a Cause is a 1955 American drama film about emotionally confused suburban, middle-class teenagers. Directed by Nicholas Ray, it offered both social commentary and an alternative to previous films depicting delinquents in urban slum environments...

horrified some Americans and electrified others. Some veterans founded the Beats Movement, then were denigrated as Beatniks and accused of being "downbeat" on everything. Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Lawrence Ferlinghetti is an American poet, painter, liberal activist, and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers...

 wrote a Beat autobiography that cited his wartime service.

Many people craved angry "true" commentary such as Lenny Bruce's acid-tongued comedy, or simply a desire for more personal freedom, even "vices". Playboy magazine, with its famous nudes, was the first skin mag sold alongside national magazines, and caused a scandal and backlash.

Many women also harbored a deep resentment. During the war years, they had been encouraged to assume men's roles in industry, both white collar
White-collar worker
The term white-collar worker refers to a person who performs professional, managerial, or administrative work, in contrast with a blue-collar worker, whose job requires manual labor...

 and blue collar
Blue collar
Blue collar can refer to:*Blue-collar worker, a traditional designation of the working class*Blue-collar crime, the types of crimes typically associated with the working class*A census designation...

. Rosie the Riveter
Rosie the Riveter
Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon of the United States, representing the American women who worked in factories during World War II, many of whom produced munitions and war supplies. These women sometimes took entirely new jobs replacing the male workers who were in the military...

 was a national icon. But after the war, women were forced to give up their jobs and become homemakers.

Citizens had also begun to question authority, especially after the Gary Powers U2
Lockheed U-2
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed "Dragon Lady", is a single-engine, very high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency . It provides day and night, very high-altitude , all-weather intelligence gathering...

 Incident, where President Eisenhower repeatedly assured people the USA was not spying on Russia, then was caught in a blatant lie. This general dissatisfaction was popularized by Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee was an American jazz and popular music singer, songwriter, composer, and actress in a career spanning six decades. From her beginning as a vocalist on local radio to singing with Benny Goodman's big band, she forged a sophisticated persona, evolving into a multi-faceted artist and...

's laconic pop song "Is That All There Is?
Is That All There Is?
"Is That All There Is?" is a song written by American songwriting team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller during the 1960s. It became a hit for American singer Peggy Lee from her recording in November 1969...

", but remained unspoken and unfocused. It wasn't until the Baby Boomers came along in huge numbers that protest became organized (or disorganized in the case of the hippies), who were named by the Beats as "little hipsters".


Anti-Establishment became a buzzword of the tumultuous 1960s. Young people raised in comparative luxury saw many wrongs perpetuated by society and began to question "the Establishment". Contentious issues included the ongoing Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 with no clear goal or end point, the constant military build-up and diversion of funds for the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, perpetual widespread poverty being ignored, money-wasting boondoggle
Boondoggle or boon doggle may refer to:* Boondoggle , term for a scheme that wastes time and money* Scoubidou, a knotting and plaiting craft known in the U.S. as "boondoggle"...

s like pork barrel
Pork barrel
Pork barrel is a derogatory term referring to appropriation of government spending for localized projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative's district...

 projects and the Space Race
Space Race
The Space Race was a mid-to-late 20th century competition between the Soviet Union and the United States for supremacy in space exploration. Between 1957 and 1975, Cold War rivalry between the two nations focused on attaining firsts in space exploration, which were seen as necessary for national...

, festering race issues, a stultifying education system, repressive laws and harsh sentences for casual drug use
Recreational drug use
Recreational drug use is the use of a drug, usually psychoactive, with the intention of creating or enhancing recreational experience. Such use is controversial, however, often being considered to be also drug abuse, and it is often illegal...

, and a general malaise among the older generation. On the other side, "Middle America" often regarded questions as accusations, and saw the younger generation as spoiled, drugged-out, sex-crazed, unambitious slacker
The term "slacker" is used to refer to a person who habitually avoids work. Slackers may be regarded as belonging to an antimaterialistic counterculture, though in some cases their behavior may be due to other causes ....


Anti-Establishment debates were common because they touched on everyday aspects of life. Even innocent questions could escalate into angry diatribes. For example, "Why do we spend millions on a foreign war and a space program when our schools are falling apart?" would be answered with "We need to keep our military strong and ready to stop the Communists from taking over the world." As in any debate, there were valid and unsupported arguments on both sides. "Make love not war
Make love not war
Make love not war is an anti-war slogan commonly associated with the American counterculture of the 1960s. It was used primarily by those who were opposed to the Vietnam War, but has been invoked in other anti-war contexts since....

" invoked "America, love it or leave it."

As the 1960s simmered, the anti-Establishment adopted conventions in opposition to the Establishment. T-shirts and blue jeans became the uniform of the young because their parents wore collar shirts and slacks. Drug use, with its illegal panache, was favored over the legal consumption of alcohol. Promoting peace and love
Peace and love
Peace and love may refer to:*Peace and Love , a 1989 album by The Pogues*Peace and Love , a 2004 album by DJ Tatana*Peace and Love a 2001 album by Edison Chen...

 was the antidote to promulgating hatred and war. Living in genteel poverty was more "honest" than amassing a nest egg and a house in the suburb
The word suburb mostly refers to a residential area, either existing as part of a city or as a separate residential community within commuting distance of a city . Some suburbs have a degree of administrative autonomy, and most have lower population density than inner city neighborhoods...

s. Rock 'n roll
Rock and roll
Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from a combination of African American blues, country, jazz, and gospel music...

 was played loud over Easy listening
Easy listening
Easy listening is a broad style of popular music and radio format that emerged in the 1950s, evolving out of big band music, and related to MOR music as played on many AM radio stations. It encompasses the exotica, beautiful music, light music, lounge music, ambient music, and space age pop genres...

. Dodging the draft
Draft dodger
Draft evasion is a term that refers to an intentional failure to comply with the military conscription policies of the nation to which he or she is subject...

 was passive resistance to traditional military service
Military service
Military service, in its simplest sense, is service by an individual or group in an army or other militia, whether as a chosen job or as a result of an involuntary draft . Some nations require a specific amount of military service from every citizen...

. Dancing was free-style, not learned in a ballroom. Over time, anti-establishment messages crept into popular culture: songs, fashion, movies, lifestyle choices, television.

The emphasis on freedom allowed previously hushed conversations about sex, politics, or religion to be openly discussed. A wave of "liberations" came out of 1960s: the Feminist movement
Feminist movement
The feminist movement refers to a series of campaigns for reforms on issues such as reproductive rights, domestic violence, maternity leave, equal pay, women's suffrage, sexual harassment and sexual violence...

, the Black Panthers
Black Panther Party
The Black Panther Party wasan African-American revolutionary leftist organization. It was active in the United States from 1966 until 1982....

 and Black Power
Black Power
Black Power is a political slogan and a name for various associated ideologies. It is used in the movement among people of Black African descent throughout the world, though primarily by African Americans in the United States...

, Gay Rights
LGBT social movements
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender social movements share inter-related goals of social acceptance of sexual and gender minorities. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their allies have a long history of campaigning for what is generally called LGBT rights, also called gay...

, Native American
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 awareness, even "Gray Power" for elders. Programs were put in place to deal with inequities: Equal Opportunity Employment
Equal Opportunity Employment
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the first federal law designed to protect most U.S. employees from employment discrimination based upon that employee's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin . The Title also established the U.S...

, the Head Start Program, enforcement of the Civil Rights Act
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation...

, busing
Desegregation busing
Desegregation busing in the United States is the practice of assigning and transporting students to schools in such a manner as to redress prior racial segregation of schools, or to overcome the effects of residential segregation on local school demographics.In 1954, the U.S...

, and others. But the widespread dissemination of new ideas also sparked a backlash and resurgence in conservative religions, new segregated private schools, anti-gay and anti-abortion legislation, and other reversals. Extremists tended to be heard more because they made good copy for newspapers and television. In many ways, the angry debates of the 1960s led to modern right-wing talk radio and coalitions for "traditional family values
Family values
Family values are political and social beliefs that hold the nuclear family to be the essential ethical and moral unit of society. Familialism is the ideology that promotes the family and its values as an institution....


As the 1960s passed, society had changed to the point that the definition of the Establishment had blurred, and the term "anti-establishment" fell out of use.

The pop term "Anti-Establishment" in India

In India, the 1960s saw emergence of a group of writers who called themselves Hungryalists. They were the first anti-establishment writers in Bengal whose dissenting voice drew attention of the government and court cases were filed against them.(reference: Amritalok ISSN.0971-4308). The main anti-establishment voices in Bengali literature have been Malay Roy Choudhury
Malay Roy Choudhury
Malay Roy Choudhury is a Bengali poet and novelist who founded the "Hungryalist Movement" in the 1960s. His literary works have been reviewed by sixty critics in HAOWA 49, a quarterly magazine which devoted its January 2001 special issue to Roy Choudhury's life and works...

, Samir Roychoudhury
Samir Roychoudhury
Samir Roychowdhury , one of the founding fathers of the Hungry Generation 1961-1965 ,was born at Panihati, West Bengal, India in a family of artists, sculptors, photographers and musicians...

, Subimal Basak
Subimal Basak
Subimal Basak, is an Indian fiction writer. He is a member of the Hungry generation, with Samir Roychoudhury, Falguni Roy, Shakti Chattopadhyay and the movement's creator Malay Roy Choudhury....

 and Tridib Mitra.

Conservatism as "Anti-Establishment"

In the United States, despite the establishment usually being associated with the right, some conservatives have asserted that liberalism has been the establishment at least since the 1970s and even as far back as the 1930s. They argue that many sections of society, such as the mainstream media and the school system are controlled by the left. Others argue that this liberal establishment manifests itself in popular culture, in the views of many Hollywood celebrities and other forms of political correctness
Political correctness
Political correctness is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts,...

, in peer-pressure, and in the natural societal expectation that young people will probably be liberal.
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