Decade of Nightmares: The End of the Sixties and the Making of Eighties America

Paperback | April 8, 2008

byPhilip Jenkins

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Why did the youthful optimism and openness of the sixties give way to Ronald Reagan and the spirit of conservative reaction - a spirit that remains ascendant today? Drawing on a wide array of sources - including tabloid journalism, popular fiction, movies, and television shows - Philip Jenkins argues that a remarkable confluence of panics, scares, and a few genuine threats created a climate of fear that led to the conservative reaction. He identifies 1975 to1986 as the watershed years. During this time, he says, there was a sharp increase in perceived threats to our security at home and abroad. At home, America seemed to be threatened by monstrous criminals - serial killers, child abusers, Satanic cults, and predatory drug dealers, to name just a few.On the international scene, we were confronted by the Soviet Union and its evil empire, by OPEC with its stranglehold on global oil, by the Ayatollahs who made hostages of our diplomats in Iran. Increasingly, these dangers began to be described in terms of moral evil. Rejecting the radicalism of the'60s, which many saw as the source of the crisis, Americans adopted a more pessimistic interpretation of human behavior, which harked back to much older themes in American culture. This simpler but darker vision ultimately brought us Ronald Reagan and the ascendancy of the political Right, whichmore than two decades later shows no sign of loosening its grip.Writing in his usual crisp and witty prose, Jenkins offers a truly original and persuasive account of a period that continues to fascinate the American public. It is bound to captivate anyone who lived through this period, as well as all those who want to understand the forces that transformed - andcontinue to define - the American political landscape.

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Why did the youthful optimism and openness of the sixties give way to Ronald Reagan and the spirit of conservative reaction - a spirit that remains ascendant today? Drawing on a wide array of sources - including tabloid journalism, popular fiction, movies, and television shows - Philip Jenkins argues that a remarkable confluence of pan...

Philip Jenkins is Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State Unviersity. He has published widely on contemporary religious thems, including New Age and esoteric movements, and is the author of Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality, Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New ...

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Paperback|Nov 3 2009

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 5.71 × 8.9 × 0.91 inPublished:April 8, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195341589

ISBN - 13:9780195341584

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Mainstreaming the Sixties2. Going Too Far: Bicentennial America3. Against the Grain4. The Politics of Children: 19775. Predators6. Captive America: 19807. Into the Reagan Era8. Evil Empires9. Dark Victories10. The Abuse Epidemic11. Wars Without EndNotesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"Jenkins has produced a humdinger.... He provides an engrossing tour of the recesses of the American mind, demonstrating that the '70s were about more than 'Saturday Night Fever' and 'Smokey and the Bandit.'"--Jacob Heilbrunn, New York Times Book Review"Brilliant.... A rich, surprising reading of what Tom Wolfe in 1976 christened the Me Decade.... A bracing re-imagination of an era.... An important contribution to our understanding of post-sixties America."--Tim Cavanaugh, Reason"Leaves the reader with a palpable sense of how the legacy of the 70's (or the anti-60's, as Mr. Jenkins terms the post-1975 years) reverberates to this day in America.... Mr. Jenkins not only emphasizes similarities 'between the economic situation then and the one that exists now'--namely, seriousdeficits, lax fiscal discipline, rising energy prices and high spending on defense and national security--but also underscores similarities in the absolutist, Manichean language employed by both the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations."--Michiko Kakutani, New York Times"Jenkins's bold idea that the 1970s (not the much emphasized 1960s and 1980s) was a pivotal decade is interesting."--The Progressive"Jenkins effectively blends American politics and world events with the popular culture of the time. His introduction stands alone as a cogent political-social critique, though the entire book is a joy--and revelation--to read. This significant work of political history is highly recommended."--Library Journal (starred review)"It is common wisdom, of course, that the conservative turn of the early '80s represented a backlash against, and arepudiation of, the naive but hopeful values of the '60s. But Jenkins' intelligent and judicious account of the period is nevertheless enlightening, largely because of the care hetakes in identifying the deep themes that united Americans' attitudes toward perceived threats of varying natures and, one might have thought, quite distinct orders."--Troy Jollimore, San Francisco Chronicle"An interpretive history whose depth and cogency may steadily increase as historical perspective lengthens."--Booklist"This book addresses a question that haunts both the historical literature and the nation itself: how did the politically and culturally liberating promise of America in the sixties transform itself into the decade of reaction and denial that was the American eighties. In this thoughtful andsophisticated examination, our eyes are opened to previously undiscovered continuities in political culture that invite a re-examination of the period in question, as well as re-evaluation of the path that has led us to our present moment. A highly provocative, and eloquent argument, well worthpondering." --Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media? and When Presidents Lie"In this thoughtful and provocative book, Philip Jenkins challenges the conventional wisdom about the 1960s and its legacy. Moving comfortably between pop culture and high politics, Jenkins not only forces us to rethink when the sixties ended and the seventies began, he calls into question many ofour basic assumptions about the period. This is an important, refreshingly creative, and highly readable look at recent American social and political history." --SteveGillon, The History Channel resident historian and author of Boomer Nation"Decade of Nightmares offers an important reinterpretation of the 1970s and a compelling explanation of how America moved from Woodstock Nation to the Reagan Revolution. Expertly blending political history and popular culture, it elegantly shows how Ronald Reagan and the conservative movement rodepowerful social currents to triumph in 1980. Philip Jenkins has produced a sophisticated and readable account of a pivotal period in recent history." --Michael W. Flamm, author of Law and Order: Street Crime, Civil Unrest, and the Crisis of Liberalism in the 1960s"An able contribution to the burgeoning historical literature on the 1970s and '80s, and a nice counterpoint to books like David Frum's How We Got Here."--Publishers Weekly