‘A New Head—A New Way of Living’: The Sixties’ New Man


  • Daniel H. Marshall Freie Universität Berlin




The first half of the twentieth century witnessed mass public mobilisations in the Western world on a scale never seen before or since. As the West, and more specifically the United States, lurched from First World War to economic depression and then back into another global conflict, society was changed irrevocably. This study posits that, in response to the new world forged in the first half of the twentieth century and enabled by the unique post-war socio-political context, young activists developed a new historical agent to negotiate this changing world, a ‘new man’ for the Sixties. This radical new subjecthood,‘a new head—a new way of living’ as U.S. academic Charles Reich put it, was the product of a dialectical process, an acknowledgement and rejection of the past combined with a wholehearted embrace of the future and all its possibilities. This new man, previously unremarked upon in Sixties historiography, is a conceptual tool that allows us to see the different, and at times paradoxically interrelated characteristics of the Counterculture, all of which express its proponents’ hunger for newness and their desire to claim agency in a world where the capacity to bring change seemed to have been stifled by those in power. It was a conscious rejection of both the privations previously suffered by their parents, and a rejection of the comfortable lives of conformity that had been preordained for them.

Author Biography

Daniel H. Marshall, Freie Universität Berlin

Daniel H. Marshall is an M.A. student at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. He previously received his BA in History from the University of Sheffield. His main areas of interest include the 1960s—particularly the U.S. Counterculture and the evolution of capitalism in the period—and more recently, having succumbed to the allures of post-structuralism, the philosophy of historical writing (Metahistory). He is currently researching for his M.A. Thesis which will be a heady blend of all the above-mentioned interests.

Juan Gris. Portrait of Pablo Picasso. 1912. The Art Institute of Chicago.