The 1970s: A New Global History from Civil Rights to Economic Inequality

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Overview

The 1970s looks at an iconic decade when the cultural left and economic right came to the fore in American society and the world at large. While many have seen the 1970s as simply a period of failures epitomized by Watergate, inflation, the oil crisis, global unrest, and disillusionment with military efforts in Vietnam, Thomas Borstelmann creates a new framework for understanding the period and its legacy. He demonstrates how the 1970s increased social inclusiveness and, at the same time, encouraged commitments to the free market and wariness of government. As a result, American culture and much of the rest of the world became more--and less--equal.

Borstelmann explores how the 1970s forged the contours of contemporary America. Military, political, and economic crises undercut citizens' confidence in government. Free market enthusiasm led to lower taxes, a volunteer army, individual 401(k) retirement plans, free agency in sports, deregulated airlines, and expansions in gambling and pornography. At the same time, the movement for civil rights grew, promoting changes for women, gays, immigrants, and the disabled. And developments were not limited to the United States. Many countries gave up colonial and racial hierarchies to develop a new formal commitment to human rights, while economic deregulation spread to other parts of the world, from Chile and the United Kingdom to China.

Placing a tempestuous political culture within a global perspective, The 1970s shows that the decade wrought irrevocable transformations upon American society and the broader world that continue to resonate today.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Keeping contemporary history timely and accessible, Borstelmann (The Cold War and the Color Line)shows the significance of 1970s American politics, culture, and religion on the following decades. As a world-renowned historian at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, he accurately explorespolitical and social crises, genderand racial equality protests, alterations in global market trends, and regional turbulence throughout the Soviet Union, Africa, and the Far East. The flower children, Borstelmann notes, were disillusioned by the endless Vietnam War, Nixon’sarrogant Republican Partyfirmly in command in Washington. The author’s sterling commentary on the rise of the feminist movement, the decline of the Soviet empire, and the new Christian right’s courtship of Capitol Hill sets this book apart from other surveys of the “Me Decade.” Nuggets of genuine insight without any social agenda are found frequently within these pages. (Dec.)
Choice

What sets this book apart . . . is the author's global approach, making clear that by the 1970s, while other countries may not have seen the US as the preeminent world leader it had been, it was very much a part of a world in which, thanks largely to technological advantages, boundaries of time and space and even culture were collapsing. Borstelmann also concisely brings readers to the present, concluding that while Americans have become less racist and sexist and more tolerant of diversity and difference, they have as a nation allowed economic inequality to reach near-epic proportions--in other words, the 1 percent versus the 99 percent.
ForeWord Reviews

[T]his is an ambitious and important work that skillfully analyzes all aspects of the seventies and defines its legacy for present times.
— Karl Helicher
Library Journal
Borstelmann (history, Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln; The Cold War and the Color Line) came of age in the 1970s. In this sweeping survey, he offers a fresh assessment of the ideas and events of that much maligned decade, moving beyond the easy retelling of the Watergate scandal and the failure of the Carter presidency. Borstelmann is more interested in tracing the emergence of political and social movements (feminism, environmentalism, evangelicalism) and the resurgence of free-market economics. There are two broad themes here: the shift from faith in the public sector to faith in the private sector, and the impact of this in the international arena. Borstelmann argues that the resurgence of religious fundamentalism in the United States, Israel, and the Muslim world was a reaction to the global drive toward more equality and to what Borstelmann calls "hyper-individualism." He concludes that today's polarized society (culturally liberal and economically conservative) is a result of seeds sown in the 1970s. VERDICT While this is a scholarly work, with heavy doses of economic and political theory, Borstelmann's style is accessible to a wide audience; college and university students will benefit from the historic perspective on contemporary issues.—Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA
ForeWord Reviews
[T]his is an ambitious and important work that skillfully analyzes all aspects of the seventies and defines its legacy for present times.
— Karl Helicher
Choice
What sets this book apart . . . is the author's global approach, making clear that by the 1970s, while other countries may not have seen the US as the preeminent world leader it had been, it was very much a part of a world in which, thanks largely to technological advantages, boundaries of time and space and even culture were collapsing. Borstelmann also concisely brings readers to the present, concluding that while Americans have become less racist and sexist and more tolerant of diversity and difference, they have as a nation allowed economic inequality to reach near-epic proportions—in other words, the 1 percent versus the 99 percent.
49th Parallel
Used as a text to enter the field of 1970s U.S. history the book excels and should receive wide readership. The study is accessible, very well written and incorporates much recent 1970s literature. . . . The 1970s is an important addition to the growing body of literature focused on the decade.
— Nick Blackboum
ForeWord Reviews - Karl Helicher
[T]his is an ambitious and important work that skillfully analyzes all aspects of the seventies and defines its legacy for present times.
49th Parallel - Nick Blackboum
Used as a text to enter the field of 1970s U.S. history the book excels and should receive wide readership. The study is accessible, very well written and incorporates much recent 1970s literature. . . . The 1970s is an important addition to the growing body of literature focused on the decade.
Pacific Historical Review - William L. O'neill
[I]ntelligent and well crafted.
Diplomatic History - Natasha Zaretsky
Thomas Borstelmann provides us with a significant addition to a growing body of literature on the decade. More than an exhaustive survey of American politics, culture, and society in the seventies (a considerable achievement in itself), the study focuses on what Borstelmann brilliantly identifies as the central crux of the decade. . . . Borstelmann has written a thought-provoking, lucid, and at-times brilliant account of American culture, society, and politics in the seventies. . . . [I]f readers approach this book as the capacious and beautifully written history of the United States that it is, they will be richly rewarded.
From the Publisher

"Keeping contemporary history timely and accessible, Borstelmann shows the significance of 1970s politics, culture, and religion on the following decades. . . . The author's sterling commentary on the rise of the feminist movement, the decline of the Soviet empire, and the New Christian right's courtship of Capitol Hill sets this book apart from other surveys of the 'Me Decade.' Nuggets of genuine insight without any social agenda are found frequently within these pages."--Publishers Weekly

"[T]his is an ambitious and important work that skillfully analyzes all aspects of the seventies and defines its legacy for present times."--Karl Helicher, ForeWord Reviews

"What sets this book apart . . . is the author's global approach, making clear that by the 1970s, while other countries may not have seen the US as the preeminent world leader it had been, it was very much a part of a world in which, thanks largely to technological advantages, boundaries of time and space and even culture were collapsing. Borstelmann also concisely brings readers to the present, concluding that while Americans have become less racist and sexist and more tolerant of diversity and difference, they have as a nation allowed economic inequality to reach near-epic proportions--in other words, the 1 percent versus the 99 percent."--Choice

"Used as a text to enter the field of 1970s U.S. history the book excels and should receive wide readership. The study is accessible, very well written and incorporates much recent 1970s literature. . . . The 1970s is an important addition to the growing body of literature focused on the decade."--Nick Blackboum, 49th Parallel

"[I]ntelligent and well crafted."--William L. O'neill, Pacific Historical Review

"Thomas Borstelmann provides us with a significant addition to a growing body of literature on the decade. More than an exhaustive survey of American politics, culture, and society in the seventies (a considerable achievement in itself), the study focuses on what Borstelmann brilliantly identifies as the central crux of the decade. . . . Borstelmann has written a thought-provoking, lucid, and at-times brilliant account of American culture, society, and politics in the seventies. . . . [I]f readers approach this book as the capacious and beautifully written history of the United States that it is, they will be richly rewarded."--Natasha Zaretsky, Diplomatic History

"Borstelmann is an excellent synthesis succeeded. His simple thesis offers explanatory power. It is also rarely overused. The beauty of this book is that Borstelmann can interweave different and quite different strands and topics to a text."--Frank Reichherzer, Sehepunkte

"Borstelmann's is a narrative that raises provocative questions. Moreover, it serves as an accessible overview of the 1970s, including political, social, diplomatic and cultural developments. I can easily imagine it being used in a classroom, where it could serve as a jumping-off point for deeper analysis of the important issues raised."--Brian Kennedy, Journal of Transatlantic Studies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691141565
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 11/20/2011
  • Series: America in the World Series
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,180,453
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas ("Tim") Borstelmann is the Elwood N. and Katherine Thompson Distinguished Professor of Modern World History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His other books include "The Cold War and the Color Line" and "Apartheid's Reluctant Uncle".

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Preface and Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

Chapter 1: Crosscurrents of Crisis in 1970s America 19

Trouble Abroad 22

Corruption at Home 36

Conservatism and the Distrust of Government 45

Economic Insecurity 53

Turning Inward 63

Chapter 2: The Rising Tide of Equality and Democratic Reform 73

Women in the Public Sphere 76

Women in the Private Sphere 88

The Many Frontiers of Equality 96

Political Reform 108

Resistance 114

Chapter 3: The Spread of Market Values 122

A Sea Change of Principles 126

The Economy Goes South 133

Globalization?s Gathering Speed 137

From Citizenship to Deregulation 144

Market Solutions for Every Problem 153

A Freer Market, A Coarser Culture 162

Chapter 4: The Retreat of Empires and the Global Advance of the Market 175

The Emergence of Human Rights 179

European Empires and Southern Africa 186

The Soviet Empire 193

The American Empire 201

The Israeli Exception 208

The Retreat of the State 214

China and the Hollowing Out of Socialism 220

Chapter 5: Resistance to the New Hyper-Individualism 227

The Environmentalist Challenge 231

Religious Resurgence at Home 247

Religious Resurgence in Israel 258

Religious Resurgence in the Muslim World 263

Jimmy Carter as a Man of His Times 270

Chapter 6: More and Less Equal since the 1970s 279

Evidence to the Contrary 280

Inclusiveness Ascending 287

Markets Persisting 295

Unrestrained Consumption 299

Inequality Rising 306

Conclusion 312

Notes 319

Index 371

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