Ten reasons the hippie movement collapsed

  1. No clearly defined identity. Long hair or passing the pipe was pretty superficial, ultimately.
  2. No underlying unity or structure. It’s not like we had a manifesto or membership cards or even paid dues.
  3. And bad trips. Especially bad trips.
  4. No reliable leaders or prophets. And definitely no reliable followers.
  5. End of the military draft. Not that it was the end of the war now, was it? But it turned the heat off the burner.
  6. Not enough self-discipline. Even before we got to the hard stuff.
  7. Demands of jobs and families kicked in after all. And since many of ours weren’t like our parents’, we had to keep improvising. There weren’t many guidelines left to follow.
  8. The soul mate who wasn’t. Or as they say in Zen, what’s the sound of one clap handing.
  9. Everyone else left. Maybe with your lover.
  10. The Grateful Dead couldn’t carry the beat forever. Even with all these oldies still hanging on.

What would you add to the list?


11 thoughts on “Ten reasons the hippie movement collapsed

  1. I think the main components of this movement didn’t “disappear,” but actually became folded into and part of popular/mainstream culture!

    Go to any grocery store, drugstore, restaurant and you’re going to find hippies’ influence all over those products.

    Best to you,

    Still a hippie, here,

    Sally Ember

    1. This made my day

      I never have to follow a person, prophet or band… I follow signs- good or bad.

      Still a hippie here.


  2. There was also a lack of spiritual direction to the hippie movement. From here it looks like what spirituality hippies had was more a rejection of the familiar forms of religion rather than truly seeking Truth. They had forms of religion, spirituality without substance.

    1. Many but not all. It gets complicated, of course. Some of us found the churches we grew up in to lack substance in daily practice as a community.
      What I learned living in the yoga ashram has deeply shaped the rest of my life.

      1. Remembering the churches of the sixties, I agree with the lack of community. That’s also sadly true for many churches today, though you will see more community in the house church movement.

        Geography also makes a difference – church is frequently done very differently in Africa, South America, Asia and the Middle East than we do it in North America.

  3. Some responses to your list–I come at this as a “late” hippie-ish sort, having graduate high school in 1976. As to your original reasons:

    No clearly defined identity: This was both a strength and a weakness. Anyone could be a hippy; didn’t matter where you came from–at least, nominally. But at the same time, when other identities pulled, they could be stronger. Net? The lack of being FOR something was probably more powerful than the attraction of being AGAINST other things.

    No underlying unity or structure: Again, +/-. There is a difference between a movement and an organization, and hippie was a movement.

    And bad trips: No real argument here!

    No reliable leaders or prophets: See movement v. organization.

    End of the military draft: Clearly a major factor. When Carter reinstated registration there was a SMALL uptick. But very small. Had the threat materialized, there might have been more. Had registration never gone away (only the draft proper) there might have been more. But between the end of “the war” and the reinstatement of registration, the military had time to sanitize its history.

    Not enough self-discipline. Even before we got to the hard stuff: Yep. Those who were dedicated leaders were dead or on their way to burnout.

    Demands of jobs and families kicked in after all: Because we hadn’t established an alternative to convention–there may be one now–we went back to the pretty little boxes.

    The soul mate who wasn’t: Some of us were lucky enough to find soulmates; but the notion of things outside the binary mated pair wasn’t there yet. It’s sort of coming along now, and that might have made a difference.

    Everyone else left: Yep.

    The Grateful Dead couldn’t carry the beat forever: Did a pretty good job, though.


    Hippie was commercialized out of existence. Day-glow flowerpower stickers didn’t pop out someone’s head–someone was making money selling those at Walgreen’s. Levi’s went to town on jeans. Music retreated into being music for the sake of ‘music’–DISCO!

    Most importantly, the post-war economy went to hades in a handbasket, which put earning degrees at a premium, and then tuition skyrocketed. Even public universities got expensive.

    And we got tired, took a break, and never went back. After the fall of Nixon, and then Ford’s caretaker presidency, we thought Carter might usher in a better day…but those days also saw the rise of the political Christian Right, which not only gave an identity to many who didn’t have it, but it conflated religion and politics. JC was too tightly yoked to JC, as it were.

    And then along came Ronald Reagan.

    Thinking back on it (see: https://lawschoolissoover.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/when-i-was-a-hippie/) I see a lot of it as having to do with materialism. Before too long, we had too much to lose to participate in a revolution. And because the economy made those things much more costly (I remember when you could buy a new car for <$2,000), we became more embedded in the ownership culture. Inflation made us hang onto what we had that much more tightly.

    Well, I think that was part of it, anyway.

  4. Was it a movement, or was it just breaking wind? I’ll go with the latter, given the evidence. I’ve known very many from that era. Almost without exception it was parties and being with the herd, the “free love” and the music, the energy and the passion. The message wasn’t even tertiary.

    The vast majority of those individuals, who cried for peace and love, voted for destruction and death in 2016. And they got it. *There’s* your movement, and it was, and is, dangerous and debilitating. Less than even odds that we survive it, and two chances in seven our children will.

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