Radical chic

1960s: Days of Rage


“‘Radical chic’ is a term coined by journalist Tom Wolfe in his 1970 essay ‘Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s’ to describe the adoption and promotion of radical political causes by celebrities, socialites, and high society. The concept has been described as ‘an exercise in double-tracking one’s public image: on the one hand, defining oneself through committed allegiance to a radical cause, but on the other, vitally, demonstrating this allegiance because it is the fashionable, au courant way to be seen in moneyed, name-conscious Society.’ Unlike dedicated activists, revolutionaries, or dissenters, those who engage in ‘radical chic’ remain frivolous political agitators. They are ideologically invested in their cause of choice only so far as it advances their social standing. ‘Terrorist chic’ is a modern expression with similar connotations. This derivative, however, de-emphasizes the class satire of Wolfe’s original term, instead accentuating concerns…

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