The Unfinished Journey

The Unfinished Journey : America Since World War II

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Prize-winning historian William Chafe here offers a vibrant chronicle of America's roller-coaster journey through the past forty years. Since World War II, the U.S. has witnessed both stunning progress and profound social divisions. The economy boomed, suburbia blossomed, college became the norm for half the younger population, and social liberation movements swept away barriers of racial and sexual discrimination. Yet in the midst of affluence, poverty remained a blight affecting half the nation; war divided the country; and a new generation, with little faith in reform, emerged. Proceeding from the chill of the Cold War to the heated social protests of the 1960s, Chafe shows how the conflict of forces in American life led to a turning point in 1968 and the ascendancy of a conservative coalition. Although set back by Watergate, this coalition re-emerged triumphant with the election of Ronald Reagan, even though enormous problems of inequality persisted in its midst. In this gripping, brilliantly written narrative, Chafe brings our recent history to life. Highlighting the paradoxes of postwar reform and reaction, he cogently and passionately demonstrates how things might have been more

Product details

  • Paperback | 528 pages
  • 156 x 234 x 26mm | 721.21g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • halftones
  • 0195036409
  • 9780195036404

Review Text

Chafe describes this survey of America's past 45 years as "new social history," i.e., gender, race and class are as important as political, diplomatic and military events. Though he organizes his narrative around conventional chronology - the Cold War, Civil Rights, Vietnam and the presidential elections, Chafe attends to the emergence of women, youth and Black Americans as groups with significant influence on the course of recent history. By doing so, he adds breadth to a survey of postwar America without posturing as a revisionist. He contends that the prosperity and abundance after the war led inevitably to the activism and unrest of the 60's and 70's. Once momentum was gained by previously disenfranchised groups (blacks toward political rights and women toward economic), the forces of change could not be arrested. The paradox became the realization that there were limits. This history carries up to the reelection of Ronald Reagan, but his arguments are made in the sections that cover the Truman presidency through 1968. He considers that year a watershed in the postwar era because "foreign and domestic issues were totally intertwined." The protests against Vietnam by students, feminists and blacks were a dramatic illustration of the impersonal threes unleashed by the changes in gender, race and class. Chafe artfully selects the events he writes about. For instance, he takes care of Watergate concisely, arguing that its significance was the downfall of the imperial presidency. He deals with Kennedy and Eisenhower on their exercise of presidential power. His thumbnail sketches of history's principal players produce a readable narrative, one that might otherwise have dulled in his attention to the impersonal forces he considers his specialty. A provocative survey which includes large groups of American society that have previously been excluded from the nation's political and social dynamics. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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150 ratings
3.72 out of 5 stars
5 20% (30)
4 43% (64)
3 29% (43)
2 7% (10)
1 2% (3)
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