Hip Capitalism Fails

"I was there..."

by Calvin Welch


March 14, 1968: Selling the underground press on Haight and Clayton.

Charles Cushman Collection: Indiana University Archives (P15615)


Graphic: Adam Cornford, Processed World magazine

Hip Capitalism Fails

By 1971 the original 1967 ambivalence among one element of hippie culture with the urban setting manifested itself in what I call the Long March to Tennessee, led by Steve Gaskin. Steve Gaskin was a philosopher-guru who held meetings at the beach and was associated with Family Dog Production Company, the producer for many of the early rock and roll bands in the Haight Ashbury.

Gaskin and his followers, which grew to several thousand people, increasingly found it impossible to pursue their version of spirituality in an urban setting and developed an ideology of the countryside. In a dramatic event, they formed a caravan of buses and vehicles of all sizes and shapes and drove to Tennessee, leaving the urban hippie in the Haight Ashbury.

This was a period of great disease in the Haight, overlapping with the heroin war. The basic problem of hippie culture was that it had no economic base. It was based upon selling dope to one another, ripping one another off, and cashing checks from home. That was about it. There was an attempt in 1968 by a group of headshop owners and poster shop owners to articulate a concept of hip capitalism, but it too was based on the kids using the checks from home to buy posters or cigarette papers or whatever. The hip merchants didn't make it, hip capitalism fell on its Levi-ed ass, and never got off the ground.

from a lecture at New College in Fall 1994.

Sep 14, 1967 Oracle vendor Haight and Ashbury Ernst Fracken wnp27.6345.jpg

Oracle vendor at Haight and Ashbury, Sept. 14, 1967.

Photo: Ernst Fracken, courtesy opensfhistory.org.

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