Friday, April 29, 2011

Schulman - The Seventies

Schulman, Bruce J. The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics. New York: Free Press, 2001.

The Seventies shouldn't be remembered for its pop culture and as an otherwise lost decade. It should be remembered for:

-The rising again of the South. Political power gained in the Sunbelt. "the South's historic policy prescriptions-low taxes and scant public services, military preparedness and a preference for state and local government over federal supremacy-came to define the national agenda"
-An explosion of public spirituality accompanied this political and ideological shift, especially as conservative Christians emerged as an effective influence outside time-honored denominational spheres.
-the triumph of the market as "the favored means for personal liberation and cultural revolution." The 1970s saw a marked decline in trust in the federal government, as many Americans turned instead to the private sphere and what Schulman calls "an unusual faith in the market." Easy credit led Americans to invest in the market, putting their faith in the market to sustain them in the long run where the government seemed to be failing.
-Other important developments: the rise of feminism, the development of new voices in music and film, the growth of identity movements around ethnicity, sexuality, race, and age, and the rise of New Age religious ideas and personal growth.

Other interesting bits
Schulman tries to synthesize political developments using culture. Disco was the last great expression of integration in the decade, and the anti-Disco movement was a reflection of the shifting to a conservative consensus.

The identity movements reflected the morphing of 60s activism into more individualistic venues.

Katherine Jay - Reviews in American history

"The concept that southern attitudes came to dominate national policy debates is not new, but Schulman explores the concept of "southernization" beyond its political impact, looking at emerging cultural and social manifesta- tions, particularly in a chapter on the "reddening" of America. Here, he offers a fascinating read on the rise of the Sunbelt by examining the widespread popularity of motorcyclist Evel Knievel, country music, and football, includ- ing the promotion of the Dallas Cowboys as "America's team." He convinc- ingly argues that "a new, defiant, resurgent South found its way into country music," whether through Loretta Lynn's pride in being a "Coal Miner's Daughter" in 1970 or the more militant anthems of Hank Williams, Jr. and the group Alabama in the late 1970s (p. 115). These developments made many in the national press uncomfortable, perhaps because they also reflected a larger shift toward conservative southern values. As more Americans began to listen to the twangy sounds of country music, the South itself became a vital center of jobs and production, luring businesses and factories with its nonunion policies and aggressive promotions. This economic growth, along with favorable federal largesse and a rapidly growing population, made southern politicians major players in Washington D.C., while southern cultural norms lost their hillbilly edge and moved definitively into the mainstream."

While Lassiter (in his deeper Silent Majority) argues the south came to look more like the rest of the suburbanizing nation, Schulman argues the nation was "southernized"/"reddened" in that southern culture found broad appeal throughout the nation.

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