Radical chic  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The compound term radical chic was popularized by American journalist Tom Wolfe in his 1970 book Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, where it was used to describe a dinner party held for the Black Panthers and white socialites by Leonard Bernstein. (The coinage itself was by Seymour Krim in a 1970 essay. The 1970 essay criticized The New Yorker for having published James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time in 1962, "after years of ignoring social issues". By extension this was applied more generally to the adoption of radical causes by well-to-do society figures and celebrities. It was around this time, for example, that actress Jane Fonda ("Hanoi Jane" as she came to be dubbed) developed contacts with the Black Panthers and embarked, in 1972, on a controversial visit to North Vietnam.

Such apparent incongruity had been observed also in France before and during the "May Revolution" of 1968. A contemporaneous account of early disturbances at the University of Nanterre noted that "it is the girls that give the show away - culottes, glossy leather, mini-skirts, boots - driving up in Mini-Coopers ...". Similarly, in Paris, "the theatre of the barricades ... attracted its share of chic walk-ons in Saint Laurent".

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