What Happened in the Sixties?

by Anomaly UK
What Happened in the Sixties?

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 Edengives 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.

3 responses to “What Happened in the Sixties?

  1. Mind-altering drugs and the rise of an anti-rational post modernism… Civilisation reaching its critical mass?

  2. What actually happened in the United Kingdom (I thought only Americans, and Americans of the more ignorant sort, made the mistake of calling the United Kingdom “England”) in the 1960s was a major expansion of government. The 1950s had a major roll back of government (both in terms of regulations and in terms of taxes and government spending, the U.K. was a far less unfree country in 1960 than it had been in 1950 – the 1950s were, in general, a good time for this country). The 1960s were, sadly, a time of expanding government.

    As for the idea that Whigs (such as Sir Robert Walpole – “Prime Minister” from 1720 to the 1740s) were in the same tradition as modern socialists and that Britain has been under this “leftist” domination since 1714. I think it is best to pass over this silliness.

  3. Mustela nivalis

    My favourite theory (because it’s mine) about what happened in the 1960s is the building of the Berlin Wall. That was the conspicuous sign that absolutely no-one in the world could overlook. No-one could now seriously deny that old-style ‘rational’ socialism had failed. Instead of ditching socialism, the left (in the West) ditched ‘rational’ (that part of my theory I have borrowed from Ayn Rand). It was only then that books like ‘Silent Spring’ had any impact. Or that (cultural) relativism could become mainstream (e.g. Dr. Who series started in 1963). I offer as proof the fact that the ‘anti-industrial revolution’ (another Rand term) took place in the West only, not in the East (they killed off their industry too, but not intentionally). Remnants of this divide are still visible in different levels of achievement in the sciences in schools in Germany. Check the striking difference of achievements on this map:

    This theory I think supplements what Anomaly UK writes.