AMERICA AT MIDDLE AGE: A New History of the United States in the Twentieth Century by Louis Galambos

AMERICA AT MIDDLE AGE: A New History of the United States in the Twentieth Century

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A pop interpretation of 20th-century America via a bizarre amalgam of life-cycle and interest-group theory. Economic historian Galambos (Johns Hopkins) sees America in ""midlife crisis""--feeling impotent, just as ""Gaff Sheehy's bestseller, Passages, explained."" We shouldn't emulate hip jogger Sam, and overextend ourselves--by trying to keep the world as we'd like it; nor, like Fat Fred the Floater, should we drift--there's a lot of potential in this country yet. Along with this line of chat (we're also the aging George Washington Bridge, or sometimes the musclebound Chicago Bears), Galambos lays out his idea of the US as having become, in middle age, a ""triocracy""--composed of alliances between ""the legislatures, the relevant interest groups, and department or agency bureaucracies."" This process supposedly took place between the closing of the frontier, in 1870 (when we ceased to be a young, growing nation), and 1940, when the ""triocratic"" institutions--in agriculture, business, labor, the professions--were firmly in place. As regards such interest-group successes as agricultural price supports and professional credentialization, Galambos is on solid if not new ground; and when he forgets about both aging joggers and stages-of-US-history, and adverts to his southern Indiana boyhood (re his father and the New Deal) or his ""home city,"" Baltimore (re the rules for practicing dentistry and such), he can be quite engaging. But neither the ""triocracy"" notion nor Galambos' middle-aged image of the US gets us anywhere--especially in the post-WW II period, when all ills are attributed to ""inconsistent, inept, and corrupt"" leadership. (In middle age, he says, we need better.)

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1982
Publisher: McGraw-Hill