America Transformed: Sixty Years of Revolutionary Change, 1941-2001

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America has seen a multitude of transformations since its very founding. This book examines the period 1941-2001 during which time the character of American life changed rapidly, culminating in the shattering of the liberal Democratic coalition. Revolutions in the areas of affluence, foreign policy, the military, business system, racial relations, gender roles, sexual behavior and attitudes, and disregard for privacy are discussed. Rather than cite historical facts as they occurred, America Transformed analyzes them and offers a fresh and often controversial perspective. Abrams’ draws on a wealth of published sources to highlight his original arguments on McCarthyism, the Cold War, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, and Johnson, to name a few topics. The synthesis of information and the depth of insight are simply unparalleled in any other book of American social history from 1941-2001.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This spirited monograph synthesizes the scholarly wisdom of a lifetime. The provocative result nicely captures the major changes in American life over the course of the last sixty years."
-Edward D. Berkowitz, George Washington University and author of Something Happened: A Political and Cultural Overview of the Seventies

"Though covering a well-known era of American history, Abrams' use of sources and economic analyses is both innovative and imaginative. Rather than accepting change over time, he originally explains the role of elites in accounting for historical changes in the course of his Eight Revolutions. Again and again, this analysis shows how popular perceptions need to be explained by reality. Look, too, at his insightful dismantling of liberal society over those tumultuous years. Additionally, Abrams boldly looks into the morality of historical events, though his use of morals is not traditional: rather it is to test policies and actions against the values in the making of the American past. In sum, this is historical analysis at its best."
-Carl N. Degler, Stanford University, Emeritus

"In the hands of a lesser scholar, Abrams' approach using learned essays and meditations about American history might not have succeeded, for it requires considerable erudition on the part of the author and a high level of trust on the part of the reader. Fortunately Abrams is nothing if not learned, and he definitely inspires trust. From beginning to end, he raises major issues and probes difficult problems. Thanks to the caliber of his mind and the breadth of his reading, he is more than equal to the task."
-Jim Jones, University of Arkansas

"America Transformed is a cogent and provocative synthesis of our nation's history since World War II. It provides a crisp account of dramatic changes that have occurred in diverse dimensions of American life, while also conveying deep, and disturbing, reservations about the recent trajectory of American policy, both domestic and international."
-Alex Keyssar, Harvard University

"By writing about U.S. History since 1941 thematically yet comprehensively, Richard Abrams is able to give focused attention to many of the forces that profoundly affected the nation in the last two thirds of a century. Concentrating on topics such as privacy, science and technology, manners and morals, corporate reorganizations, and the power of elites, he illuminates what he persuasively reveals as the revolutionary forces that transformed the nation."
-Daniel Horowitz, Smith College

"Some readers will take heart and others take umbrage at the chiaroscuro in Richard Abrams' bold thematic portrait. None will deny that his wisdom on politics, business, culture, and law — plus heartfelt good will — glimmer from every page. America Transformed is both autopsy and eulogy for the liberal vision of what America might have become."
-Walter A. McDougall, University of Pennsylvania

"In a volume that synthesizes a lifetime of thinking and teaching about the twentieth century, Richard Abrams offers a shrewd, insightful, and always original interpretation of American life during the six momentously charged decades since 1941. Abrams tells the political and economic story, considers social and cultural trends, and examines both the intellectual mainstream and the odd, telling moment. Clever, witty, and fresh, this book serves not a bland pabulum but a flavorful, one might even say, somewhat peppery and spicy, dish of American history."
-William J. Rorabaugh, University of Washington and author of Kennedy and the Promise of the Sixties

"To make sense of wrenching changes in American society, culture, and politics since the United States entered World War II, this engaging, synthetic account by Berkeley historian Richard M. Abrams presents a potent narrative of revolution and counterrevolution...This book is good history and it is, at the same time, determinedly political—a combination, posing no difficulty in principle, that grants the book its vigor...Abrams narrates the rise to the Republican Right to power with finesse."
-Business History Review

"Adams has produced a bold, original work that deserves a wide readership. It stands as both a rigorous introduction to this period for non-specialists, while specialists will find much to ponder even if they do not always agree with his conclusions."
-Timothy N. Thurber, Virginia Commonwealth University, H-Amstdy

"...readers can dip into most chapters as separate essays, and those who do will be richly rewarded by the author’s sprightly style and thought-provoking insights." -Susan M. Hartmann, Journal of Cold War Studies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521722117
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 366
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard M. Abrams is a professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley, where he has been teaching since 1961. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1962. He was a Fulbright Professor at the University of London (1968–9) and Moscow State University (1989). Professor Abrams is the author of Conservatism in a Progressive Era: The Burdens of Progress and editor or co-editor of The Shaping of 20th Century America and The Issues of Populist and Progressive Eras.

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Table of Contents

Part I. Retrospect: 1. 'The American Century'; 2. Before the revolutions; 3. The challenge of power; 4. The inflation of moral possibilities; 5. The generational chasm; Part II. Eight Revolutions: 6. Affluence; 7. From isolation to hegemonic power; 8. The rise of the military; 9. The reorganization of the business system; 10. The revolution in racial relations; 11. The revolution in gender roles; 12. Revolution in sexual behavior and attitudes; 13. The demise of privacy; Part III. Counterrevolution: 14. Collapse of the Liberal Democratic coalition; 15. Liberalism: ascension and declension; 16. The Liberal Democratic coalition; 17. The failure syndrome; 18. Rise of the New Left and birth of 'neoconservatism'; 19. Right-wing ascendancy; 20. The Reagan revolution; 21. Summary; Part IV. 'The New American Century'.

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