Friday, April 29, 2011

Matusow - The Unraveling of America

Matusow, Allen J. The Unraveling of America: A History of Liberalism in the 1960s. New York: Harper & Row, 1984.

JFK and LBJ brought liberalism and the welfare state into broad new areas, where FDR didn't go because WWII intervened and where Ike was indifferent to approach. They succeeded in educational desegregation - despite "white flight" education improved for black children. The North managed to resist desegregation. But the War on Poverty ground to an end without reaching a solution to the problems of equal opportunity, amidst liberal divisions over affirmative action. The economy stumbled because of the unbalanced budgets and inflation caused by LBJ's attempts to have both guns and butter - to fund the war and the social programs. Vietnam revealed the generation gap. The counterculture led to the unraveling of America, peaking at the 68 DNC, and collapsing under the Weathermen and the Black Panthers. The backdrop of the period is one of continued economic prosperity, part of the period from 1950-70, ending in the failure of liberalism.

Kirkendall - AHR
" blame the war is to embrace a liberal explanation for liberalism's failure to transform American life, and that is niot tlis author's point of view. For Matusow, the chief obstacle in the way of lar-ge-scale change was liberalism itself. Here the crucial defect was not a tendency to promise too much but weaknesses in perception that rendered the liberals unable to deliver on promises, such as the assurances that liberal measures would create an orderly society. The liberals, according to the author's interpretation, were too soft. They as- sumed that significant changes come easily. They did not understand the problerns they faced, includ- ing poverty, or the solutions to them, including the redistribution of income. Also, they did not think hard enough about the distribution of power and the need to change it. They were too willing to compromise with the corporations, the political bosses, and other power groups."

JAH - Heath
"The book's basic thesis is well summarized on page 127: "By his heroic poses, his urgent rhetoric, his appeal to idealism and the nation's great traditions, Kennedy inadvertently helped to arouse among millions a dormant desire to perfect America.... Only later, during Lyndon Johnson's term as president, would the limits of liberal good will become apparent and the flaws of liberal reform be exposed. "

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