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The Dark Ages: Life in the United States 1945-1960 (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – Juli 1982

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Discusses the most important social, cultural, and political developments in postwar America and isolates the beginnings of the civil rights and peace movements.


why I wrote this book

I began this book in 1973 at a time when American society, polarized by the Vietnam War, seemed to be coming apart. I was inspired to write it because there was then no comprehensive history that adequately discussed the root causes of our follies abroad and our difficulties at home.

Revisionist historians (William Appleman Williams, Gabriel Kolko, Lloyd Gardner, Walter Lafeber, and others) were already reinterpreting the origins of the Cold War to show that the United States was not entirely an innocent party. Their writings exploded the myth that the Soviet Union had been to blame for all the troubles of the postwar world. The main expansionist power, in fact, had been the United States.

But there seemed to be no reliable histories that dealt with what had happened in the United States itself during the period from 1945 to 1960. (Lawrence Wittner's Cold War America and Howard Zinn's Postwar America, among other more recent books, have since filled this gap). True, we did have the excellent writings of such social and political critics as Paul Goodman, C. Wright Mills, I.F. Stone, Jane Jacobs, Lewis Mumford, Dwight MacDonald and Murray Kempton. But no one had tried to put this commentary into a historical format, or even to integrate it into a broader discussion of American foreign policy goals.

This book is not intended as a thorough history of the period. It ignores many important subjects (religion, leisure, elections, the growth of bureaucracy-public and corporate-for example), and makes no attempt at chronological order. Rather, it deals with broad social themes and with crucial patterns of decision-making and policy. Its value, such as it has, is to provide historic background for some of the important issues that involve us today.

The book is divided into three parts. Part One provides the political backdrop against which life within the United States unfolds. The first three chapters deal with foreign policy from a revisionist perspective. I have tried, in as short a space as possible, to synthesize the research of the afore-mentioned historians. Chapter four, which concludes the first part, deals with political repression at home as the domestic aspect of our Cold War foreign policy. The seven chapters of Part Two cover life within the United States: the economy, customs, and social mores of the country. Chapter five deals with the economy and its various components: military spending, advertising and easy-credit, artificial consumption. Chapter six shows the effects of monopoly on the brewery business and in the transportation and energy sectors. Chapter seven talks about agriculture and land use. Chapter eight is about housing, the deterioration of urban neighborhoods and the evolution of suburban living and culture. Chapter nine explores the plight of the working class. Chapter ten discusses family life, the myth of togetherness and the prevailing anti-feminist ideology. Chapter eleven is about growing up as part of the postwar baby boom generation. A unifying theme of this entire section concerns how the large corporations used their wealth, power and influence to shape the quality of life in virtually every social sphere. Part Three represents an eccentric departure from the direction of the text. Instead of discussing the mainstream politics of American life, I go off on a tangent to describe the postwar roots of the civil rights movement, the peace movement, the counter-culture and the new left -- those participatory and democratic currents that marked the 1960s and the early 1970s. Because political repression was prevalent through much of the postwar period, radicalism was expressed culturally and artistically more so than through political action. I emphasize cultural rather than political radicalism, not out of personal preference, but in order to accurately depict dominant trends of the time.

As flawed, confused and misdirected as it so often is, the progressive peace and justice movement, in America as throughout the world, remains our fragile, humane hope. The radical tradition in America is a proud one. Virtually every useful reform in American life-from the abolition of slavery, to woman's suffrage, to desegregation, to the right of working people to organize unions-is a result of ideas and agitation emanating from the left. But you'll rarely read anything of its influence in the standard history texts. Thus, the need for the three chapters (two cultural and one political) that make up Part Three. If history is useful it is because people, actively participating in the processes of self-rule, can and do learn from the past. The failures (and the weaknesses) of the left are embedded in recent times: its ignorance of history, its sexist attitudes, its estrangement from working people and alienation from the mainstream culture are all outgrowths of the postwar experience. And the left's achievements in mobilizing people for civil rights, against the bomb, against war, poverty, injustice and repression-all come out of the cauldron of that time.

I mean this book to be an activist tool. If my analysis of U.S. foreign policy and domestic programs makes sense to you; that is, if you can place yourself in the historical context that I describe, then you have no choice but to participate in the movement for change and to seek solutions to our problems that are radical, that go directly to the core. Political issues, in these frightening times, cut close to the bone. Let's understand our history, or we will doom ourselves to a treadmill of past mistakes. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Taschenbuch.


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