I’ve always enjoyed the literary work of "The Beats". Jack Kerouac is known for On the Road but I think his The Dharma Bums is better.
Allen GInsburg’s poetry contains some remarkable work (and like the work of all writers, it contains some garbage). I still recall the effect that "Howl"had on me as a teenager.
My favorite Beat is probably Gary Snyder, who is still alive and still an activist. He is a Buddhist Beat, I guess. His poetry is vibrant, sparse and contains wonderful imagery.
I agree with Nancy. Some members of the Beat Generation were simply out for their next fix or high. Some were out for change. And some were a mixture of the two, people who genuinely wanted to effect the world but were derailed by their own demons in the form of alcohol or drugs or whatever.
It’s like any movement. There are going to be people who genuinely believe in what they are doing and there are going to be posers and hangers-on.