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Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Rightby Dominic Sandbrook
Synopses & Reviews
“Im mad as hell, and Im not going to take it anymore!” The words of Howard Beale, the fictional anchorman in the 1970s hit film Network, struck a chord with a generation of Americans. From the disgrace of Watergate to the humiliation of the Iran hostage crisis, the American Dream seemed to be falling apart.
In this magisterial new history, Dominic Sandbrook re-creates the schizophrenic atmosphere of the 1970s, the world of Henry Kissinger and Edward Kennedy, Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Landry. He takes us back to an age when feminists were on the march and the Communists seemed to be winning the Cold War, but also when a new kind of right-wing populism was transforming American politics from the ground up. Those years gave us organic food, disco music, gas lines, and gay rights—but they also gave us Proposition 13, the neoconservative movement, and the rise of Ronald Reagan.
From the killing fields of Vietnam to the mean streets of Manhattan, this is a richly compelling picture of the turbulent age in which our modern-day populist politics was born. For those who remember the days when you could buy a new Ford Mustang II but had to wait hours to fill the tank, this could hardly be a more vivid book. And for those born later, it is the perfect guide to a tortured landscape that shaped our present, from the financial boardroom to the suburban bedroom: the extraordinary world of 1970s America.
"Inspired by the famous scene in Network in which TV watchers howl their inchoate rage, historian Sandbrook (Eugene McCarthy) offers a shrewd, sparkling politico-cultural history of post-Watergate America. Sandbrook locates the decade's heart in the popular distrust and subsequent resentment of all institutions--governments, corporations, and unions. The individualism that results, Sandbrook argues, resonates with the roots of evangelicalism and develops into the beginnings of right-wing Christian populism. This fertile if not entirely original take on the era offers insightful interpretations of 1970s watersheds, from Jimmy Carter's canny 'outsider' presidential campaign to property-tax revolts and battles over school busing and the ERA. Sandbrook sets his chronicle against a panorama of gasoline lines, stagflation, and epochal changes in race relations, women's roles, and sexual mores, woven together with cultural touchstones from Bruce Springsteen to Charlie's Angels. Sandbrook's account of right-wing populism as a mass phenomenon, fed by real grievances over social and economic turmoil and a pervasive sense of decline, largely misses the role of business interests; still, his subtle, well-written narrative of wrathful little guys confronting a faltering establishment illuminates a crucial aspect of a time much like our own. Photos. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
A comprehensively researched, panoramic account of a defining era in American history.
The 1970s were some of the grimmest years in American history: from Nixon’s disgraceful exit after Watergate, to Ford’s bumbling leadership, to Carter’s seemingly endless miscalculations—these years formed a crucible in which the American people’s most bitter resentments boiled over. And it’s here that Dominic Sandbrook finds the roots of the right-wing Christian populism, intractable Washington partisanship, and near-total cynicism toward government that characterize much of our politics today. Moving deftly between social, political, and cultural history, Sandbrook offers powerful street-level views of such crucial events as the oil crisis, the sacking of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, the nascent women’s rights movement and the backlash it precipitated, Boston’s public-school busing programs, and the anti-gay campaigns of Jerry Falwell and Anita Bryant. He also covers All in the Family, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Landry’s legendary Dallas Cowboys.
Sandbrook brings an illuminating new awareness to these seminal pieces of our national history, affording us a deeper understanding of their resonance in our own time.
About the Author
Born in Shropshire, England, in 1974, Dominic Sandbrook studied history and modern languages at Oxford University, earned a master’s degree at the University of St. Andrews, and a doctorate at Cambridge University. He taught American history at the University of Sheffield and has held a senior fellowship at the Rothermere American Institute, Oxford. He is the author of Eugene McCarthy: The Rise and Fall of Postwar American Liberalism. He lives in London.
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» History and Social Science » American Studies » 50s, 60s, and 70s