by Tom Shachtman ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 1, 1983
Prolific generalist Shachtman (Edith and Woodrow, The Phony War) has well captured the common perceptions, at least, of the convulsive decade between Kennedy's assassination and Nixon's exit; the book can equally be brushed off as a compendium of clichÃ‰s--or cited for incorporating all of them into a coherent, strand-by-strand narrative. It only becomes overtly silly when he reaches for significance--quoting Pascal, for instance, to identify Richard Nixon and Elliot Gould as antipodes of Godlessness: ""megalomania and erotomania."" Otherwise, the individual chapters sketch in the major developments, in eight separate areas, that collectively jolted American confidence in ""our society as being the best possible realization of our potential, the model for the rest of the world and for the future."" (A serious critique--if this were a more serious book--would be that Shachtman overstates the transformation by, in part, underplaying pre-1964 discords and upheavals. But this is less the ease in individual sections: he is aware, for instance, that women were going to work in unprecedented numbers prior to The Feminine Mystique.) So we have, once again: the political murders.(who was safe? were we a violent society?); black power--and the black critique of American society as racist; inflation--undermining confidence in government, assaulting the Protestant work ethic; the youth movement, guttering out in narcissism (this is the most convoluted and erratic section); the Vietnam War--quite decently summarized, over there and over here; the ""limits of technology"" (DDT, the Torrey Canyon, etc.), environmentalism, and technology-rampant (OPEC, Munich); women's liberation; Watergate. For the most part, Shachtman pronounces fairly upon events. Re Vietnam: ""The Nixon adminstration's actions were part of a pattern of abuse of power which had been growing since the start of the Second World War."" For the most part, he sorts things out competently. Re feminism: ""Friedan spoke to suburban housewives; Willis represented the group of fairly radical young women; the studies of Robert Blood and associates speak about the third major component of the emerging women's movement--working wives and mothers."" The book, in short, is serviceable--in a TV-series sort of way.
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1983
Page Count: -
Publisher: Poseidon/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1983
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