IT SEEMED LIKE NOTHING HAPPENED: The Tragedy and Promise of America in the 1970s by Peter N. Carroll

IT SEEMED LIKE NOTHING HAPPENED: The Tragedy and Promise of America in the 1970s

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Few survivors of the Seventies would subscribe to the words of the title. But for those with only painful memories, Carroll (The Free and the Unfree, 1977) offers a silver-lining review of the decade's developments, predicated on ""the emergence of an alternative consciousness."" This counterculture romanticism doesn't prevent Carroll from getting most things right--in the political arena or as regards social movements. (His occasional soundings of popular culture tend to be tritely tendentious.) But even so, there are differences. On politics, Carroll supplies an interpretation, even some analysis: ""The very traits that had made [Carter] such an attractive candidate in 1976--images of compassion, homeyness, innocence--contradicted popular expectations of presidential authority. . . ."" Nothing remarkable, but sound. Writing of social movements, he regurgitates: ""Younger workers, still hoping for a meaningful future, resisted the demands of industrial life, sought more than bread and butter from their jobs."" Or: ""The celebration of the natural order assumed that Americans could transcend the limits of industrial society, restore some primal attachment to the order of nature."" To read Carroll on these trends (also women's ""quest for identity,"" black ""self-awareness,"" ""the awakening ethnicity,"" everyone's ""longing for connections"") is to relive the decade verbatim. Where he does take a stand is in opposition to Christopher Lasch and other critics of Seventies ""narcissism"" and ""selfishness."" And then he writes woozily of ""a quest not simply for personal salvation, but more fundamentally for a sense of cosmic connection."" Carroll is a trustworthy ear-to-the-groundswells and a generally reliable, quite effective narrator of the main events (Watergate, the two presidential elections). For virtually every happening, he has an apt quote and a pertinent example. As recent past history, this has little to impart today to anyone over 25 or 30--but the young may take to it, all the more on account of its outlook.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1982
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston