American Empire: The Rise of a Global Power, the Democratic Revolution at Home, 1945-2000

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A compelling look at the movements and developments that propelled America to world dominance

In this landmark work, acclaimed historian Joshua Freeman has created an epic portrait of a nation both galvanized by change and driven by conflict. Beginning in 1945, the economic juggernaut awakened by World War II transformed a country once defined by its regional character into a uniform and cohesive power and set the stage for the United States? rise to global dominance. Meanwhile,...

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Overview

A compelling look at the movements and developments that propelled America to world dominance

In this landmark work, acclaimed historian Joshua Freeman has created an epic portrait of a nation both galvanized by change and driven by conflict. Beginning in 1945, the economic juggernaut awakened by World War II transformed a country once defined by its regional character into a uniform and cohesive power and set the stage for the United States’ rise to global dominance. Meanwhile, Freeman locates the profound tragedy that has shaped the path of American civic life, unfolding how the civil rights and labor movements worked for decades to enlarge the rights of millions of Americans, only to watch power ultimately slip from individual citizens to private corporations. Moving through McCarthyism and Vietnam, from the Great Society to Morning in America, Joshua Freeman’s sweeping story of a nation’s rise reveals forces at play that will continue to affect the future role of American influence and might in the greater world.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Historical surveys of the era since World War II are not rare, and many are quite good, e.g., Randall Bennett Woods's Quest for Identity: America Since 1945 and James T. Patterson's two magisterial volumes contributing to the "Oxford History of the United States." Nevertheless, Freeman has crafted a solidly researched and well written account, the fifth volume in this series from Penguin. The book deserves attention for its able synthesis of the vast array of literature on various aspects of a remarkably complex era. Freeman (history, Queen's College-CUNY; Working-Class New York) charts the nation's postwar economic growth; the struggles of African Americans, women, and other minorities to attain a political voice; and the nascent American empire's global impact as it confronted Communism and, later, Middle East tensions, culminating in the horror of 9/11. Freeman traces the development of these themes through the decades, showing how they became defining challenges as the century headed towards conclusion. Of course, the arrival of the new century has not signaled the resolution of these issues, many of which are just as troubling as they were 50 years ago. VERDICT An important book for both general and scholarly audiences.—Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Kirkus Reviews
A terrifically useful wide-lens survey of the United States in the last half of the 20th century. Freeman (History/Queens Coll. and CUNY Graduate Center; Working-Class New York: Life and Labor Since World War II, 2000, etc.) has full command of his vast material, fashioning a structured history that is both readably general and restrained of scholarly matter as well as nicely specific regarding meaty information--e.g., he names important court cases and offers occasional quotes by contemporary observers and newsmakers. The author demonstrates how postwar economic growth helped spur the great process of democratization that placed America in the first rank among nations in terms of standard of living and basic rights for all citizens. Yet, along with the rise of consumerism, globalism and prosperity, the power shifted from the public to the private realm, specifically corporate. From the 1970s onward, Freeman shows how incipient economic inequality, unharnessed military spending and burgeoning political conservatism threatened to check much of that social progress at the end of the century. The expansion of government with the New Deal promoting socially benevolent programs generated an ongoing debate about whether government should be a muscular arm of progressive reform in the fashion of FDR or more restrained, the latter conservatism given new energy by Barry Goldwater's ascendancy in 1960. Freeman comes down fairly hard on Kennedy's "hyperbolic rhetoric" and "obsession with manhood and virility," while the sections on LBJ and the "democratic revolution" of the 1960s, including civil-rights legislation and the antiwar movement, are masterly and thorough. With the dawn of the '70s, the country moved from "dreams to nightmares," from equal rights for women and gays toward an utter contempt for government amid Watergate, urban decline, manufacturing shutdowns, stagflation, new corporate models, deregulation and Reaganism. A liberal-minded but still evenhanded primer for all students of U.S. history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670023783
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Publication date: 8/2/2012
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 6.62 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 1.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Joshua B. Freeman is a professor of history at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. He is the author most recently of Working-Class New York. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Prologue: E Pluribus Unum 1

Part I Pax Americana (1945-1953)

1 Power and Politics 27

2 Cold War 49

3 Stalemate in Washington 71

4 National Security State 79

Part II The High Tide of Liberal Democracy (1954-1974)

5 Suburban Nation 113

6 "We the Union Army" 143

7 "Hour of Maximum Danger" 162

8 The Democratic Revolution 187

9 Apocalypse Now 219

10 Sixties to Seventies, Dreams to Nightmares 255

11 The End of the American Century 287

Part III The Resurrection of Corporate Capitalism (1975-1989)

12 The Landscape of Decline 301

13 The Politics of Stagnation 318

14 The Corporate Revolution 343

15 The Reagan Revolution 367

16 Cold War Redux 390

Part IV The New World Order (1990-2000)

17 "I'm Running Out of Demons" 407

18 Triangulation 416

19 Living Large 445

Epilogue: America After 9/11 466

Acknowledgments 481

Bibliography 483

Index 517

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