Macquarie University
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Mixed legacies: contesting the meanings of "the sixties" in the U.S. anti-nuclear movement, 1976-1987

posted on 2022-03-28, 15:04 authored by Kyle Harvey
This thesis examines the anti-nuclear movement in the United States from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, and assesses how activists within that movement demonstrated an ambivalent relationship to the legacies of the 1960s. Different activists, groups and organizations mobilizing against the threats posed by nuclear power and nuclear weapons, in the process promoting very different ideas about the efficacy of protest, the nature of the nuclear threat, and the meaning of "the sixties." Responding to a mixed legacy of activism and radical thought in the years since the 1960s, activists in the wider anti-nuclear movement both challenged and embraced the role of activism on the left in the midst of the conservative revival of the 1970s and 1980s. -- The popular cultural idea of "the sixties" as a time of hippie rebellion and destructive revolutionary movements affected progressive social movements in the 1970s and 1980s as they attempted to define themselves in response to popular memories of the 1960s. Oppositional social movements in the wake of the 1960s experimented with different styles of protest, on the one hand attempting to influence public policy, and on the other, satisfying personal philosophies of resistance. The "turn to the right" in local and national politics during the 1970s and 1980s meant that activists needed to redefine their role as harbingers of social change, without diminishing their appeal by advocating ideological or tactical radicalism. At the same time, however, many activists, groups, and organizations refused to compromise their identities in order to join a broad-based antinuclear movement; instead, they reaffirmed their radical stance on social change, in the process ensuring that the legacies of New Left and countercultural radicalism from the 1960s would be characterized by their mixed reception amongst anti-nuclear activists in later years. It is this process of - alternately - reaffirming, negotiating, and rejecting the legacies of the New Left and the counterculture in the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s and 1980s that is the central theme of this thesis.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Conflict and compromise: negotiating activism in anti-nuclear coalitions -- Building a mainstream movement: advertising, publicity and image -- "Principalities and powers": plowshares activism and nuclear disarmament -- Personal politics: radical feminism, difference, and anti-nuclear activism -- Prayer or protest? Fasting, nonviolence, and anti-nuclear activism in the 1980s -- Activism in the heartland: local identities, 'the day after,' and the anti-nuclear movement in Lawrence, Kansas -- The great peace march for global nuclear disarmament: grassroots pragmatism or hippie idealism? -- Conclusion.


Bibliography: p. 332-357

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Dept. of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Department, Centre or School

Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Michelle Arrow


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Kyle Harvey 2011.




United States


x, 361 p. ill., map, ports

Former Identifiers

mq:22531 1736519