Blogs > Cliopatria > Terry Hartle: Review of Edward Berkowitz's Something Happened: A Political and Cultural Overview of the Seventies (Columbia U. Press)

Feb 20, 2006 11:17 pm


Terry Hartle: Review of Edward Berkowitz's Something Happened: A Political and Cultural Overview of the Seventies (Columbia U. Press)



At first glance, Something Happened looks as if it should be filed under current events. It examines an unpopular and divisive foreign war, rapidly rising energy costs, political corruption in Washington, D.C., and economic dislocations that resulted in jobs being shipped overseas.
But in fact, the book is about the 1970s and how these challenges - along with many others - reshaped America's political, economic and social landscape in ways that continue to affect us today.

Edward Berkowitz, a professor of history and public policy at The George Washington University, has written a concise and highly readable summary of an era that has, so far, been widely overlooked.

He makes a strong case that the 70s deserve far more attention than they have received because they marked "the end of the postwar (World War II) consensus that had applied to how America was governed and its economy managed." The beliefs that professional expertise could help solve social problems and that government would always do the right thing were undermined, if not destroyed.

In turn, these changing views about the competence of government helped produce the current environment, which often starts with an assumption that government action is likely to be undesirable or counterproductive.

At the same time, the 70s witnessed "a genuine rights revolution" that increased economic opportunities, legal rights, and social acceptance for women, gays, and people with disabilities.

This revolution was modeled on and borrowed the tools of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. And while for the most part the rights revolution of the 70s lacked the drama and visibility of the earlier effort, it was a broader revolution that continues to have an enormous impact.

comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe to our mailing list