The Unraveling of America: A History of Liberalism in the 1960s

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In a book that William E. Leuchtenburg, writing in the Atlantic, called “a work of considerable power,” Allen Matusow documents the rise and fall of 1960s liberalism. He offers deft treatments of the major topics—anticommunism, civil rights, Great Society programs, the counterculture—making the most, throughout, of his subject’s tremendous narrative potential. Matusow’s preface to the new edition explains the sometimes critical tone of his study. The Unraveling of America, he says, “was intended as a cautionary tale for liberals in the hope that when their hour struck again, they might perhaps be fortified against past error. Now that they have another chance, a look back at the 1960s might serve them well.”
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"With The Unraveling of America, Allen Matusow has produced what all historians—indeed, all authors—hope for and almost always fail to achieve: an enduring classic that can be read with equal profit a generation after its initial publication; a measured, sympathetic, and scholarly work in all the best senses of those words."--Eric Alterman, author of Why We're Liberals

"A work of considerable power, energetically expounded and engagingly written. Matusow is capable of capturing a man in one sentence and of sustaining a narrative over many pages. . . . And in tracing out the many threads that went into making the counterculture, he composes a chapter that is a tour de force."--William E. Leuchtenburg, Atlantic

"Matusow offers a superb look at the people who propelled the liberal era. . . . The narration is enormously readable."--Susan Lee, Business Week

"Deeply researched and clearly written, this work should figure as a standard study of a watershed movement in American public life for some time to come."--Library Journal

"A thorough, basic general history of the 1960s that includes clear descriptions of all political and social matters. . . . Allen Matusow has accomplished the impossible—he has made sense out of the often senseless '60s."--Lee Milazzo, Dallas Morning News

"This may well be the definitive analysis of the political, economic, and social factors that came together with such explosive force in the 1960s."--Bill Youngblood, Forth Worth Star-Telegram

"The best history of the decade we have to date."--Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820334059
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 568
  • Sales rank: 1,487,294
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Allen J. Matusow is the W. G. Twyman Professor of History at Rice University. He is the author of Nixon’s Economy: Boom, Busts, Dollars, and Votes and Farm Policies and Politics in the Truman Years.
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Table of Contents

Preface to the 2009 Edition ix
Preface to the 1984 Edition xix

part i

1. The Liberals, the Candidate, and the Election of 1960 3
2. Kennedy, Keynes, and the Corporations 30
3. Politics and Principle: The Issue of Civil Rights 60
4. Origins of the War on Poverty 97

part ii

5. The Election of 1964 131
6. War, Inflation, and Farewell to Keynes 153
7. Civil Rights: Triumph and Retreat 180
8. War on Poverty I: The Failure of the Welfare State 217
9. War on Poverty II: The Strange History of Community Action 243

part iii

10. Rise and Fall of a Counterculture 275
11. Rise and Fall of the New Left 308
12. Black Power 345
13. The War, the Liberals, and the Overthrow of LBJ 376
14. Rout of the Liberals: The Election of 1968 395

Bibliographic Note 441

Notes 443

Index 523

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