Beauty is in the Street

Beauty is in the Street

Protest and Counterculture in Post-War Europe


'A rich and readable account of left-wing activism in the West and opposition to Soviet-style communism in the East' Katja Hoyer, The Spectator

A dream, perhaps, but one that still sounds worth fighting for, even beautiful' Stuart Jeffries, The Observer

ambitious and masterly account of utopian protest in Europe ... Fast-paced, with an eye for telling detail and written with a light touch' Robert Gildea

In post-war Europe, protest was everywhere. On both sides of the Iron Curtain, from Paris to Prague, Milan to Wroclaw, ordinary people took to the streets, fighting for a better world. Their efforts came to a head most dramatically in 1968 and 1989, when mass movements swept Europe and rewrote its history.

In the decades between, Joachim C. Häberlen argues, new movements emerged that transformed the nature of protesting. Activism moved beyond traditional demonstrations, from squatting to staging 'happenings' and camping out at nuclear power plants. People protested in the way they dressed, the music they listened to, the lovers they slept with, the clubs where they danced all night. New movements were born, notably anti-racism, women's liberation, gay liberation, and environmentalism. And protest turned inward, as activists experimented with new ways of living and feeling, from communes to group therapy, in their efforts to live a better life in the here and now.

Some of these struggles succeeded, others failed. But successful or not, their history provides a glimpse into roads not taken, into futures that did not happen. The stories in Häberlen's book invite us to imagine different futures; to struggle, to fail, and to try again. In a time when we are told that there are no alternatives, they show us that there could be another way.


  • Well written and informative ... The stories of Provo and other groups, less mythologised than the brick-throwers of 1968 but equally important, illuminate the pages of this book, showing that their efforts 'changed the society in which we live' not merely by achieving things, but also by encouraging us to try it ourselves.
    Anna Aslanyan, Financial Times

About the author

Joachim C. Häberlen

Joachim C. Häberlen is a historian of modern Europe. He holds a PhD from the University of Chicago and worked until 2022 at the University of Warwick; he now lives and works in Berlin. He has published widely on the history of protesting and activism, including The Emotional Politics of the Alternative Left: West Germany, 1968-1984 and Citizens and Refugees: Stories from Afghanistan and Syria to Germany.
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