The Sixties (Big Ideas)

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From the vantage point of London, she takes stock of the Sexual Revolution, the fashion, the drug culture, and the psychiatric movements and education systems of the day. What she discovers is that the ideas of the sixties often paved the way for their antithesis, and that by confusing liberation and libertarianism, a new kind of radicalism would take over both in the UK and America.

Witty, provocative, and gorgeously written, Jenny Diski promises to feed your head with new insights about everything that was, and is , the sixties. Ultimately, Diski suggests, the s were more about illusions than revolution. The truth is more prosaic but also more interesting: It was a period in which disposable income, easy access to education and hipster capitalism encouraged an explosion of youthful enthusiasm and youthful self-indulgence that, as all youth movements, existed in a bubble, willfully unaware of the complexities of adulthood or even that anyone had ever felt this way before….

It's the measure of this book that she can simultaneously acknowledge this and embrace the messy, hopeful chaos of her own youth, in which "[n]arcissism meets the mirror stage and neither condition actually stops in infancy, especially when the times collude.

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She is one of Britain's sharpest social commentators, her writing distinguished by its bleak wit, its honesty and acerbity. Diski is not polemical or doctrinaire. Her writing is calm and wry and her gift is for thinking about the sixties as if they were happening now. In her wonderful memoir Skating to Antarctica I recognized her london, and saw her eccentric postwar childhood as a mirror of my own.

Her adventure to the ice cap has since become a symbol of my generation's desire to catch the earth before it falls and we fall with it. The Sixties offers another insightful and accurate mirror of my particular London mod genome, reflecting much of what I remember, and reminding me of much I had forgotten.

The Sixties: Big Ideas, Small Books (BIG IDEAS//small books) (Paperback)

Her London life was crossed by many of the most interesting cultural currents of the era, and in this short, personal account she looks back at her younger self with a clear eye and an open mind. Phone: My Account. Shopping cart There are no products in your shopping cart. Site logo. The book opens when Diski is in her early teens - if she'd been from a more sheltered background she might have missed quite a lot of The Sixties, but she ran away from home and dropped out before she'd been in anything apart from school.

In a way she achieved the teenage dream of being independent at a young age whilst living in the epicentre of her era's pop culture, but it wasn't always easy. She was part of a Laingian therapy group for a while and as she had also used the era's rather unsympathetic NHS mental health system, is well placed to comment about the differences, plus she has plenty of anecdotes about the anarchic environment and its characters. Her account of the men's assumptions and sense of sexual entitlement gives some background reasoning to the more puritanical side of s feminism.

It also reminded me of how I treated men in my first year or two at university thirty years later , before starting to learn - partly thanks to LGB flatmates - that it wasn't okay whoever it was, and no matter what the media implied about twentysomething men always being up for it. By the early 70s Diski had found her feet, did teacher training and worked in a free school, hoping to help other troubled, potentially delinquent kids like the one she'd been ten years earlier.

This chapter had several interesting references to deschooling, unschooling, Ivan Illich and similar theorists.

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I then realised I've known one or two people who were into these theories, but as they, perhaps appropriately, hadn't used formal terms and references, I hadn't twigged the framework before. There's a lot of interesting stuff to think about, though at least it's not a pressing matter, as I don't have kids. In brief, I generally agree with the left-wing libertarian ethos, but pragmatically I think kids need to be given the skills to manage well in society as it is or is likely to be; that, even if it does inevitably bestow some conformism, at least gives them the choice about whether to fit in later.

I'd always been a bit puzzled by Jenny Diski's status in the media: she's been on Radio 4 and in all the broadsheets and highbrow magazines for almost as long as I can remember, but I'd never found her to have much of interest to say compared with many similar commentators.

As will annoy many, I get Mary Kay Wilmers' point about reviewers who are jargony or breathless, doesn't mean I'm not myself sometimes, and CBA making the effort not to be, but those I keep reading and liking certainly aren't. Particularly in the light of that remark, I didn't understand why Diski got so many gigs in the LRB and similar publications; I've seen several bits of lazy research from her and there's no doubt there are female writers who take a more intellectually rigorous and original approach, who have probably missed out in favour of her.

After reading her account of the Sixties, I'd assume she gets all that work because she must be interesting to know personally; she had a hard and varied early life and it gave her lots to talk and think about. These less-talked about experiences are certainly worth reading if you're interested in the history of the day before yesterday, as a friend described it, but overall, the best first-person account of Britain in the 60s I read - at a time when I looked at several - was High Sixties by Roger Hutchinson.

And not only because I agreed with a lot of the author's opinions on how culture and society had developed since then. It's exactly the sort of "yes it's quite good but And she is one of the few other people I've seen defend with reservations Liz Jones.

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I like her more than I used to. A good, sharp account of the 60s from someone who was there, and involved - Diski was participating in the Aldermaston march in , aged she lived in a commune, took the drugs, wore the clothes, taught in a free school, has insider knowledge of the psychiatric revolution, both as patient and counsellor, and the sexual revolution.


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On the latter she tells us it was impolite to turn down sex even if you didn't want to, participation was expected, so it was an era of mass rape, a bad time in m A good, sharp account of the 60s from someone who was there, and involved - Diski was participating in the Aldermaston march in , aged she lived in a commune, took the drugs, wore the clothes, taught in a free school, has insider knowledge of the psychiatric revolution, both as patient and counsellor, and the sexual revolution.

On the latter she tells us it was impolite to turn down sex even if you didn't want to, participation was expected, so it was an era of mass rape, a bad time in many ways for women. However it was also a liberating era in that the women's movement, with books by Friedan and Greer published, was starting to take hold. Ditto 'gay lib'. It didn't occur to them that the right would take their language and use it against them, how in the Thatcher years to come, liberty would come to be 'libertarian' - the right to be rich and selfish, how the rights of individuals would come to be twisted to mean there was 'no such thing as society'.

How treating psychiatric patients as individuals with full rights problematically calling them the sane ones in some cases would enable the Tories to close psychiatric hospitals and other communal facilities. Diski is quite rightly affronted by this deliberate misreading and disgusting turn of events.

Most of the stuff was familiar to me, as someone who also grew up in the 60s, although I was too young to participate I was 8 when Diski was CND marching, and 15 at the end in - although many people say the 60s were really , and I did belatedly become a 'hippy', at least a weekend one, with long hair, loons, going to festivals etc.

I've read Illich and Laing teacher training college and Leary and so on, so while I appreciated her summaries and personal accounts I didn't learn much that was new. Although Diski repeats a few times the music was the best ever, there's little about it or art or literature, and that's what I'm most interested in.

This was my first Jenny Diski, and it was great and acerbic and concise. I especially liked the first half. First half v good. At times the balance of memoir slash social history of the 60s felt a little awks, but who cares, Diski probably didn't, in fact she paints a pretty bleak picture here most of the time and seems pretty pissed off, as any Sixties radical would be who had to live through the Eighties. She also seemed fucking wonderful and i will root around for more of her books. View 1 comment. Jenny Diski's "The Sixties"--an odd blend of history and memoir--is divided into six sections recounting s resistance and radicalism in Britain: consumption and cultural output clothes, films, books, media , drug use prescription and illegal , sex and briefly sexuality free love, Stonewall in New York , political strife radicalism, resistance, political philosophies, laws, even the dole , education non-traditional schooling , and mental health experimental psychological practices.

D Jenny Diski's "The Sixties"--an odd blend of history and memoir--is divided into six sections recounting s resistance and radicalism in Britain: consumption and cultural output clothes, films, books, media , drug use prescription and illegal , sex and briefly sexuality free love, Stonewall in New York , political strife radicalism, resistance, political philosophies, laws, even the dole , education non-traditional schooling , and mental health experimental psychological practices.

Diski's refusal to either denounce or condone experimentation with radical beliefs and projects makes "The Sixties" far more palatable than many books written about the same time period. Diski is able to honour the noble and moral aspects of radical politics while at the same time turning a rightfully jaundiced eye on poorly considered policy and unconsidered political platforms Diski frequently points out the failing of herself and her peers to realize the significant differences between social liberalism and libertarianism.

As an American, it was especially interesting to compare and contrast my understanding of the American '60s and early '70s movements with their British counterparts. I think Americans were, frankly, more desperate than Brits who, provided for by their parents many of whom had suffered directly in WWII and the government, experienced a more lenient social climate. I especially enjoyed the chapters on education and mental health, which touched on alternative schooling and deschooling in the case of the former and a movement to embrace "madness" primarily schizophrenia and reject rigid conceptions of normality in the latter case.

Jun 14, sevdah rated it really liked it. Loved the chapters on madness and her thoughts on rape culture woven into the sexual revolution, as well as her account on free schooling; some parts were a bit dull, but generally a very well written memoir that - thank God! Aug 29, Peter Landau rated it it was amazing. Why is it that everyone who grew up in the Sixties is convinced that, say what you will about anything else, the music was the best.

Has it ever occurred to them that music heard during the period between child- and adulthood is always going to resonate with the place and time.

The Sixties: Big Ideas//Small Books Jenny Diski

Jenny Diski starts Why is it that everyone who grew up in the Sixties is convinced that, say what you will about anything else, the music was the best. We can respectfully disagree about the music, which was often pompous, but she has a much bigger story to tell over the deeply rich pages of the book. From early sections on fashion and drugs, to more troubling later ones on politics and education, Diski starts off as a depressed young woman and ends up starting a free school. She ends up in a mental institute, really a progressive group therapy center, disillusioned.

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She regretfully admits the changes championed by the boomer generation were superficial and structurally not much is different at the time of her writing early new millennium. Feb 17, Craig Werner rated it liked it Shelves: sixties. A brief, often amusing and lightly insightful memoir of growing up in London during the mythic s.

The differences between her England and the America I grew up in can be summed up in two words: "race" and "Vietnam. She knows this, commenting at one point that for all the emphasis A brief, often amusing and lightly insightful memoir of growing up in London during the mythic s.


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  • She knows this, commenting at one point that for all the emphasis on the "personal is the political" mantra, for those in her circles, "the personal was mostly the personal. Laing, Ivan Illych and Margaret Thatcher. From there she moves to the conclusions tragic in her mind that the gap between hippies and yuppies was minimal and that Thatchers "there is no such thing as society" had its disturbing parallels in the counterculture. However, though she writes several times that "the music really was better," she pays almost no attention to music.

    Mostly for people with a serious interest in the 60s. May 05, Sally Edsall rated it it was amazing. Diski was there. This is a wonderfully clear-eyed appraisal of the era from the early 60s to early 70s in the UK. It's not by any means a conservative recanting, more a re-appraisal of what the hell was going on and crucia Diski was there. It's not by any means a conservative recanting, more a re-appraisal of what the hell was going on and crucially from a woman's point of view.