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The Sixties

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The 1960s (pronounced "nineteen-sixties") was a decade that began on 1 January 1960, and ended on 31 December 1969. The term "1960s" also refers to an era more often called the Sixties, denoting the complex of inter-related cultural and political trends around the globe. This "cultural decade" is more loosely defined than the actual decade, beginning around 1963 with the Kennedy assassination and ending around 1972 with the Watergate scandal.

"The Sixties", as they are known in both scholarship and popular culture, is a term used by historians, journalists, and other objective academics; in some cases nostalgically to describe the counterculture and revolution in social norms about clothing, music, drugs, dress, sexuality, formalities, and schooling; and in others pejoratively to denounce the decade as one of irresponsible excess, flamboyance, and decay of social order. The decade was also labeled the Swinging Sixties because of the fall or relaxation of social taboos especially relating to racism and sexism that occurred during this time. Commentator Christopher Booker described this era as a classical Jungian nightmare cycle, where a rigid culture, unable to contain the demands for greater individual freedom, broke free of the social constraints of the previous age through extreme deviation from the norm. He charts the rise, success, fall/nightmare and explosion in the London scene of the 1960s. Several Western nations such as the United States, United Kingdom, France, and West Germany turned to the political left in the early and mid-1960s.

By the end of the 1950s, war-ravaged Europe had largely finished reconstruction and began a tremendous economic boom. World War II had brought about a huge leveling of social classes in which the remnants of the old feudal gentry disappeared. There was a major expansion of the middle class in European countries and by the 1960s, almost any working class person in Western Europe could afford a radio, television, refrigerator, and motor vehicle. The communist countries in Eastern Europe continued to be plagued by lower standards of living and inefficient command economies, although they also experienced some degree of economic prosperity with the end of postwar reconstruction. The United States, after sluggish economic growth during the 1950s, also experienced a major '60s boom. Real GDP growth averaged 6% a year during the second half of the decade. Thus, the overall worldwide economic trend in the 1960s was one of prosperity, expansion of the middle class, and opportunities once only available to the wealthy.


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