PUT YOUR BODIES UPON THE WHEELS: Student Revolt in the 1960s

Kenneth J. Heineman, Author PUT YOUR BODIES UPON THE WHEELS: Student Revolt in the 1960 $26 (251p) ISBN 978-1-56663-351-2

Writing on the 1960s and its constituent parts—the New Left, Vietnam, etc.—has become a cottage industry, but there is certainly room for a balanced, nuanced overview of that enigmatic era. Unfortunately, this is not it. Heineman, an Ohio University historian and author of Campus Wars and other works, contends that the turbulence of the 1960s was a form of class conflict. On one side were privileged students at elite universities (and also radical black organizations) who, along with their supporters among intellectuals, the clergy and the media, were rabidly anti-American and disdainful of the nation's values. On the other side was the white working class, hardworking and patriotic, willing to serve in Vietnam but reviled and ridiculed by the radical elite and so alienated from them. This is an interesting thesis, with more than a little truth to it, but here Heineman, rather than analyzing it, merely announces it. Missing is any real examination of the complex social and historical factors that led so many young people at the time to question so much, replaced by oversimplified explanations, broad generalizations, irrelevant information and questionable assertions. What is left is a caricature of radical students—arrogant, hedonistic and nihilistic, prone to romanticizing violence. There is truth here as well, but partial truth, for an era as complex as the 1960s cannot be so easily summed up. Thus, while an interesting if peculiar polemic, regrettably this falls far short of being a useful historical guide. (May 4)

Reviewed on: 04/09/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!