Getting Loose

Lifestyle Consumption in the 1970s

Getting Loose

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 27 illustrations Published: April 2007

Author: Sam Binkley

American Studies, Media Studies, Sociology

From “getting loose” to “letting it all hang out,” the 1970s were filled with exhortations to free oneself from artificial restraints and to discover oneself in a more authentic and creative life. In the wake of the counterculture of the 1960s, anything that could be made to yield to a more impulsive vitality was reinvented in a looser way. Food became purer, clothing more revealing, sex more orgiastic, and home decor more rustic and authentic.

Through a sociological analysis of the countercultural print culture of the 1970s, Sam Binkley investigates the dissemination of these self-loosening narratives and their widespread appeal to America’s middle class. He describes the rise of a genre of lifestyle publishing that emerged from a network of small offbeat presses, mostly located on the West Coast. Amateurish and rough in production quality, these popular books and magazines blended Eastern mysticism, Freudian psychology, environmental ecology, and romantic American pastoralism as they offered “expert” advice—about how to be more in touch with the natural world, how to release oneself into trusting relationships with others, and how to delve deeper into the body’s rhythms and natural sensuality. Binkley examines dozens of these publications, including the Whole Earth Catalog, Rainbook, the Catalog of Sexual Consciousness, Celery Wine, Domebook, and Getting Clear.

Drawing on the thought of Pierre Bourdieu, Zygmunt Bauman, and others, Binkley explains how self-loosening narratives helped the middle class confront the modernity of the 1970s. As rapid social change and political upheaval eroded middle-class cultural authority, the looser life provided opportunities for self-reinvention through everyday lifestyle choice. He traces this ethos of self-realization through the “yuppie” 1980s to the 1990s and today, demonstrating that what originated as an emancipatory call to loosen up soon evolved into a culture of highly commercialized consumption and lifestyle branding.


[G]etting Loose is a persuasive and rich account of the rise of both a new class and the importance of lifestyle. The book is packed with fascinating and detailed examples that are difficult to do justice to in a review. . . . [T]his is key reading for anyone working on lifestyle and consumer culture.” — Joanne Hollows, European Journal of Cultural Studies

Getting Loose gives us a valuable take on the place of self-help and self-making in the production and regulation of the mainstream cultural landscape of the 1970s, one that encourages us to ask those further questions, and that is all to the good.” — Nicholas Sammond, Journal of Consumer Culture

Getting Loose is a fascinating guide to the mutation of political radicalism into feel good ideas of self-improvement.” — Tim Roberts, M/C Reviews

“[Getting Loose’s] wide scope and depth of analysis make it essential reading for anyone interested in the discourses of American selfhood.” — Ian Nicholson, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

“[O]ne of the greatest strengths of Getting Loose is its ability to animate the seemingly vague notion of ‘loosening’ in its attention to the specifics of these texts. Perhaps the greatest insight offered is the transformation of the counter-culturally inspired loose life-style into the commercialized mainstream. . . . Binkley’s insights are original and compelling.” — Elana Levine, Journal of American History

“This clearly written study explores the emergence in that decade of a new form of late-modern identity derived from the 1960s counterculture. . . . Recommended.” — W. Graebner, Choice

“Binkley’s work is a useful addition to recent scholarship that drags the countercultural out of flower-child stereotypes and into broader relevancy.” — Bess Williamson, Winterthur Portfolio

“With nearly 600 bibliographic entries, Getting Loose is among the most thorough studies of its kind.The book surveys the period in American society when 1960s counterculture developed into the consumer lifestyles we know today. But Binkley does more than simply mark the transition from yippie to yuppy. He shows how the emancipatory impulses of rebellion helped usher in the new world order of unrestrained global capital.” — Vince Carducci, Popmatters

Getting Loose is a work of historical sociology that both draws on and challenges central theoretical perspectives on consumption and consumer culture, identity, postmodernism and late modernity, post-Fordism, and contemporary moral culture through exceptionally creative analyses of 1970s lifestyle philosophies and practices.” — Don Slater, author of Consumer Culture and Modernity

Getting Loose is an important and quite interesting study of the discourses of the 1970s lifestyle movement. It casts a whole new light not only on that epoch but, more importantly, on its relationship to contemporary self, identity, and the economy, especially consumer culture. Sam Binkley moves comfortably and insightfully between the most abstract of social theories and the most prosaic of social phenomena, using the former to offer new insights into the latter. He presents a panoramic view of the movement from the 1970s era of the loosening of the self to the reality of the early twenty-first century, where ‘we’re all loose now.’” — George Ritzer, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland, and founding editor, Journal of Consumer Culture


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Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sam Binkley is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Emerson College.
Visit the author’s blog.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction / Mediated Immediacy: Living in the Now 1

Part I / Middle Class in the Maelstrom

1. Of Swingers and Organization Men: Loose Modernities 27

2. Experts Unbound: Intimate Professionals and the Value of Lifestyle 77

3. Book as Tool: Lifestyle Print Culture and the West Coast Publishing Boom 101

Part II / Caring Texts

4. Being One: From Knowledge to Consciousness in the Spaceship Society 129

5. Loving Each Other: From Phony to Real in the New Togetherness 165

6. Letting It All Hang Out: From Mind to Muscle in the Relaxed Body 207

Conclusion / Morning in America: Pulling in the Slack 243

Notes 251

Bibliography 263

Index 287
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3989-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3973-1
Publicity material