Chafe describes this survey of America's past 45 years as ""new social history,"" i.e., gender, race and class are as...



Chafe describes this survey of America's past 45 years as ""new social history,"" i.e., gender, race and class are as important as political, diplomatic and military events. Though he organizes his narrative around conventional chronology--the Cold War, Civil Rights, Vietnam and the presidential elections, Chafe attends to the emergence of women, youth and Black Americans as groups with significant influence on the course of recent history. By doing so, he adds breadth to a survey of postwar America without posturing as a revisionist. He contends that the prosperity and abundance after the war led inevitably to the activism and unrest of the 60's and 70's. Once momentum was gained by previously disenfranchised groups (blacks toward political rights and women toward economic), the forces of change could not be arrested. The paradox became the realization that there were limits. This history carries up to the reelection of Ronald Reagan, but his arguments are made in the sections that cover the Truman presidency through 1968. He considers that year a watershed in the postwar era because ""foreign and domestic issues were totally intertwined."" The protests against Vietnam by students, feminists and blacks were a dramatic illustration of the impersonal threes unleashed by the changes in gender, race and class. Chafe artfully selects the events he writes about. For instance, he takes care of Watergate concisely, arguing that its significance was the downfall of the imperial presidency. He deals with Kennedy and Eisenhower on their exercise of presidential power. His thumbnail sketches of history's principal players produce a readable narrative, one that might otherwise have dulled in his attention to the impersonal forces he considers his specialty. A provocative survey which includes large groups of American society that have previously been excluded from the nation's political and social dynamics.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 1985

ISBN: 0195315375

Page Count: -

Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1985