Something Happened: A Political and Cultural Overview of the Seventies / Edition 1

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Overview

In both the literal and metaphorical senses, it seemed as if 1970s America was running out of gas. The decade not only witnessed long lines at gas stations but a citizenry that had grown weary and disillusioned. High unemployment, runaway inflation, and the energy crisis, caused in part by U.S. dependence on Arab oil, characterized an increasingly bleak economic situation.

As Edward D. Berkowitz demonstrates, the end of the postwar economic boom, Watergate, and defeat in Vietnam led to an unraveling of the national consensus. Durgaing the decade, ideas about the United States, how it should be governed, and how its economy should be managed changed dramatically. Berkowitz argues that the postwar faith in sweeping social programs and a global U.S. mission was replaced by a more skeptical attitude about government's ability to positively affect society.

From Woody Allen to Watergate, from the decline of the steel industry to the rise of Bill Gates, and from Saturday Night Fever to the Sunday morning fervor of evangelical preachers, Berkowitz captures the history, tone, and spirit of the seventies. He explores the decade's major political events and movements, including the rise and fall of détente, congressional reform, changes in healthcare policies, and the hostage crisis in Iran. The seventies also gave birth to several social movements and the "rights revolution," in which women, gays and lesbians, and people with disabilities all successfully fought for greater legal and social recognition. At the same time, reaction to these social movements as well as the issue of abortion introduced a new facet into American political life-the rise of powerful, politically conservative religious organizations and activists.

Berkowitz also considers important shifts in American popular culture, recounting the creative renaissance in American film as well as the birth of the Hollywood blockbuster. He discusses how television programs such as All in the Family and Charlie's Angels offered Americans both a reflection of and an escape from the problems gripping the country.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
A very unsettling cautionary tale.

— Erik Himmelsbach

Orange County Register
A strong case that the '70s deserve far more attention than they have received.

— Terry hartle

Choice

Scholarly, judicious, and readable... Highly recommended.

Blade
An interesting look at a tumultuous time.

— Jules Wagman

History
Edward Berkowitz offers a highly readable account of a decade that tends to get overlooked.

— M. J. Heale

Financial Times
Berkowitz... has boldly attempted to put a troubled decade into proper perspective in this concise and useful summary.

— Peter Aspden

Christian Science Monitor
Contrary to popular wisdom, "Something Happened" in the 1970s, and Berkowitz helps us remember what that was and why it still matters.

— Terry Hartle

The Journal of American History
A concise glimpse of the era... Something Happened one of the better surveys to have appeared about a significant decade.

— Yanek Mieczkowski

Westside Chronicle
Berkowitz has provided an essential map to what is perhaps the most misunderstood decade of the twentieth century.

— Eve Lichtgarn

Sunday Constitution
Quite a lot happened in the 1970s and this may be the concise, yet definitive account.
Associatedcontent.com
An essential map for what is perhaps the most misunderstood decade of the twentieth century.
Los Angeles Times - Erik Himmelsbach
A very unsettling cautionary tale.
Financial Times - Peter Aspden
Berkowitz... has boldly attempted to put a troubled decade into proper perspective in this concise and useful summary.
Blade - Jules Wagman
An interesting look at a tumultuous time.
Christian Science Monitor - Terry Hartle
Contrary to popular wisdom, "Something Happened" in the 1970s, and Berkowitz helps us remember what that was and why it still matters.
Orange County Register - Terry hartle
A strong case that the '70s deserve far more attention than they have received.
Westside Chronicle - Eve Lichtgarn
Berkowitz has provided an essential map to what is perhaps the most misunderstood decade of the twentieth century.
The Journal of American History - Yanek Mieczkowski
A concise glimpse of the era... Something Happened one of the better surveys to have appeared about a significant decade.
History - M.J. Heale
Edward Berkowitz offers a highly readable account of a decade that tends to get overlooked.
History - M. J. Heale
Edward Berkowitz offers a highly readable account of a decade that tends to get overlooked.
Choice
Scholarly, judicious, and readable... Highly recommended.
Library Journal
The 1970s used to be considered either the decade when "nothing happened" or the inward-looking "Me Decade." Of course, a lot did happen during the 1970s, as such recent books as Stephanie A. Slocum-Schaffer's America in the Seventies and Bruce J. Schulman's The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society and Politics have shown. Now Berkowitz (history, public policy & administration, George Washington Univ.; Robert Ball and the Politics of Social Security) may have written the best of the lot. Borrowing his title from Joseph Heller's long-awaited second novel, Berkowitz defines the Seventies as the period from 1973 to 1981, a time that he sees as both transitional and truly transformational in U.S. history. He focuses chiefly on the political and economic events that fed into the rise of Reaganomics and social conservatism, but he also addresses the popular culture of the time, including the movies and television programming (which he calls the "reassurance of the familiar"). While readers will be familiar with the litany of problems and crises in the 1970s-Watergate, gasoline shortages, abortion politics, Three Mile Island, and the hostages in Iran-Berkowitz links these and other events to Americans' loss of faith in politicians and to a crisis of competence on the part of the government (reflected in both the Ford and Carter administrations). Further, he believes that the decade marked the end of individual and national self-confidence, both of which President Reagan partially restored in the 1980s. An illuminating chapter addresses the impact of feminism and the "rights revolution" on American society. An ambitious study that is still concisely focused and very readable, this will stand as the definitive book on the 1970s for some time to come. Highly recommended.-Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231124959
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 11/14/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward D. berkowitz is professor of history and public policy and public administration at George Washington University. He is the author of eight books and the editor of three collections. Durgaing the seventies he served as a staff member of the President's Commission for a National Agenda, helping President Carter plan for a second term that never came to be.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

1 Nixon, Watergate, and presidential scandal 12
2 Vietnam and its consequences 32
3 Running out of gas : the economic downturn and social change 53
4 The frustrations of Gerald Ford 71
5 Congress and domestic policy in the age of Gerald Ford 84
6 Jimmy Carter and the great American revival 104
7 The rights revolution 133
8 The me decade and the turn to the right 158
9 The movies as cultural mirror 178
10 Television and the reassurance of the familiar 198
11 The end of the seventies 219
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 12, 2012

    For some the 1970s is so far away it seems to have been another

    For some the 1970s is so far away it seems to have been another world but it is necessary to have us remember once in a while that the hardship experienced now is but a walk in the park compared to the recession and social upheavals of the seventies.
    At the same time, as the author shows, the ’70 not only liberated the women it awake in them the power to ask for all that it was theirs by right.
    The ‘70s, or the tail end of them, was when the computer became smaller and the electronic revolution started to speed up its pace.
    ‘70s are also the time when terrorism was at its peak in the world and the world fought back not with armies but with clever policing. Terrorism disappeared because the people where neither swayed by the ideas of the extremist ideologies nor cowered by the seemingly disregard for human life that the terrorist showed. Nothing destroys a political movement faster than its unattractive message.
    The author has succeeded to write a very informative book that reads as a good thriller. One really wants to get to the next page to see how our parents (or even ourselves, young and inattentive to the world at large) survive what was thought at the time the weakening of civilization and pauperization of the developed world.
    It is shown in the book that every idea or movement that starts with the premise that humanity is doomed has history to hold it to its right place in the museum of ridicule ideas.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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