The Long Sixties: From 1960 to Barack Obama

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Overview

Barack Obama would not be possible without the Sixties, Tom Hayden writes in his unique and compelling new book. Obama was conceived because of changing mores on interracial marriage; was electable because of the civil rights movement and voting rights laws; and was successful because of a new social movement that applied participatory democracy online and door to door.

Hayden shows that movements throughout history triumph over Machiavellians, gaining social reforms while leaving both revolutionaries and reactionaries frustrated. Only the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King prevented the Sixties from ending with a progressive presidency propelled into power by social movement activism, Hayden says. But the Sixties did leave a critical print on America, from civil rights laws to the birth of the environmental movement, and forced open the political process to women and people of color. Hayden portrays the Reagan and Bush eras as counter-movements against the Sixties which ultimately failed, and the Obama presidency as a delayed achievement.

Chicago’s Grant Park was consciously chosen for Obama’s 2008 victory celebration, according to campaign manager David Axelrod, to “symbolically overcome the damage done to American idealism forty years before.”

Hayden’s carefully researched history includes formidable, if sometimes forgotten, coverage of Sixties achievements as well as a valuable dateline for activists, journalists and historians as the fiftieth anniversary of every episode of that decade approaches.

While accepting President Obama’s centrist positioning, Hayden reminds the new president that the peace movement was critical to his 2008 victory and only a radical populism will make his economic recovery, green jobs and health care promises come to fruition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Hayden, a longtime proponent of progressive thought and action, is a fine witness to the pivotal events of the Sixties. In a book both sweeping and reflective, he offers a primer on the era's political and cultural upheavals and an early assessment of President Obama measured against Sixties ideals. Hayden was everywhere then, from Newark to Berkeley, Hanoi, Cuba, Chicago, and Northern Ireland, and he knew everybody who was in power or a threat to power. Writing of the beginnings of the counterculture, feminist, and environmental movements, he highlights parallels between Vietnam and Wounded Knee; explores liberation theology, Jack Kerouac and the Beats, urban violence and poverty, and his strained relationship with Bill Ayers and the Weathermen; and writes movingly of a 2007 visit to old friends in Vietnam. Hayden is optimistic about Obama's leadership but concerned about current war policies and critical of current economic policies. He lists suggestions for Obama and indicates that a New Left is needed to advance a truly progressive agenda. VERDICT This book will introduce a new generation of readers to Hayden and provoke discussion of the impact of the Sixties on the current political scene. With fine notes and a useful 50-page time line; highly recommended.—Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA
Kirkus Reviews
The big news, for those who keep track of such things: Tom Hayden, New Left enfant terrible, never dropped acid. "Marijuana was another matter," he writes, "although I came to believe that it made no sense to be stoned when under police surveillance." This salvo of a book is only incidentally about drugs and their counterculture users. Instead, it is about what Hayden calls the "coming ‘battle over memory' "-though that battle has long been here, as witness the swiftboaters of the 2004 presidential race and the furor over Weather Underground veteran Bill Ayers in 2008. Even though the '60sare not yet over, Hayden notes that one aspect of Barack Obama's presidency has been a clear desire to move beyond the messy issues of the time. Not so fast, the author writes. Afghanistan and Iraq have uncomfortable similarities to Vietnam, and though the sitting president didn't get us into the mess, he seems to be having a hard time getting us out of it. Hayden updates the protest movement of old to what he calls a "movement against Machiavellians." He admits, however, that the term is both a little "gimmicky" and a bit unfair to Machiavelli, whose work was more subtle than the decidedly unsubtle adjective for "power technicians...who represent the institutional hierarchies of business, government, the military, the intelligence agencies, the media, and organized religion." The movement to elect Obama, Hayden writes, was one such anti-Machiavellian endeavor, and highly reminiscent of the movements of old, which accomplished quite a bit, not least "the fall of two presidents." What the current one needs, says Hayden, is a new New Left to keep things moving. With elements of a new Rules for Radicals andknowing takes on such old New Left moments as The Port Huron Statement, Hayden's book could be a worthy foundational document.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594517396
  • Publisher: Paradigm Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/28/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Hayden-social activist, legislator, educator, and speaker-is the author of The Port Huron Statement, long considered the founding document of the Sixties movement. He is the author of more than 15 books including, most recently, Voices of the Chicago 8: A Generation on Trial (2008) and Writings for a Democratic Society: The Tom Hayden Reader (2008). He writes for The Nation and many other magazines.
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