Until the 1950s, the struggle to feed, clothe, and employ the nation drove most of American political life. From slavery to the New Deal, political parties organized around economic interests and engaged in fervent debate over the best allocation of agonizingly scarce resources. But with the explosion of the nation's economy in the years after World War II, a new set of needs began to emerge--a search for meaning and self-expression on one side, and a quest for stability and a return to traditional values on the other.
In The Age of Abundance, Brink Lindsey offers a bold reinterpretation of the latter half of the twentieth century. In this sweeping history of postwar America, the tumult of racial and gender politics, the rise of the counterculture, and the conservative revolution of the 1980s and 1990s are portrayed in an entirely new light. Readers will learn how and why the contemporary ideologies of left and right emerged in response to the novel challenges of mass prosperity.
The political ideas that created the culture wars, however, have now grown obsolete. As the Washington Post aptly summarized Lindsey's take on the contradictions of American politics, "Republicans want to go home to the United States of the 1950s while Democrats want to work there." Struggling to replace today's stale conflicts is a new consensus that mixes the social freedom of the left with the economic freedom of the right into a potentially powerful ethos of libertarianism. The Age of Abundance reveals the secret formula of this remarkable alchemy. The book is a breathtaking reevaluation of our recent past--and will change the way we think about the future.
More than any other cause, economic prosperity transformed the United States after World War II into a nation unlike any other in recorded history, posits Lindsey of the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute. Although Lindsey (Dead Hand: The Uncertain Struggle for Global Capitalism) acknowledges that millions of Americans live below the poverty line, he argues that mass prosperity changed the equation in many areas, including gender relations, race relations, labor-management relations, parent-child dynamics and organized religion. The result was the rise of a politically liberal counterculture, a politically conservative backlash, the labeling of blue states and red states, and a multitude of other political phenomenon. Although the book offers details about political campaigning, drug use, and the rise of rock and roll music among other events that made headlines from the 1950s into the 21st century, the details often overwhelm Lindsey's hypothesis. Ultimately, the book reads more like a college freshman survey course textbook than a compelling narrative. (May)
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May 07, 2007
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