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America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s 2nd Edition

16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195160475
ISBN-10: 0195160479
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Historians (and former 1960s radicals) Isserman (If I Had a Hammer) and Kazin (The Populist Persuasion) mount an intermittently convincing reinterpretation of the 1960s. They start off strong with the Civil War Centennial Commission's remarkable decision to avoid any mention of slavery or emancipation in its five-year-long celebrationAvividly illustrating America's forced "normalcy" as the decade began. But they go on to present an erratic vision of the decade. For instance, they inexplicably relegate the huge 1963 March on Washington to a brief mention. And the popular song "Louie Louie" merits a longer discussion than such critical texts and events as SDS's Port Huron statement and the Supreme Court's Griswold decision. Further, they artificially separate their discussion of politics, culture and spiritualityAthree strands that were intimately linked in the era. The authors' revisionist take does offer some useful correctives, for instance, to the false notions that the War on Poverty was a massive giveaway program and that in the '60s liberalism held sway ("Of the three main branches of the federal government, liberals held the commanding heights... in only one branch, the judiciary... liberalism was neither sufficiently coherent as a political philosophy nor sufficiently well organized as a political movement, to realize many ambitions"). But the dearth of historical analysis of the "why" of this situation will leave many readers unsatisfied. In short, this is a sometimes useful if tepid and occasionally odd corrective to more lopsided views of the '60s. Photos. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Isserman (If I Had a Hammer) and Kazin (The Populist Persuasion) are two of the keenest practitioners of the history of American people's politics. Both came of age in the 1960s, and each has a genetic link, respectively, to the Old Left and the grand liberal tradition of the 1930s. No better-suited collaborators could join to offer a history of the American Sixties. But while the book they offer is commendably balanced, the authors have not written a definitive text. Oddly, they cover most penetratingly terrain already well trod by more staid scholars: conventional electoral politics, Vietnam, the four presidencies, the assassinations. Their most important contribution comes in demonstrating the rise not only of a New Left but a new and persistent Right. By contrast, their writing on the advent of the counterculture, movement politics, and especially urban black nationalism is familiar and too brief. The authors seem to be aiming this book at the undergraduate survey-course marketAeach reference to Jim Crow is accompanied by a parenthetical definitionAand apparently decided to economize on the very subjects still most unsettled by conventional wisdom. Nevertheless, this is recommended for academic, secondary school, and public libraries.AScott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., PA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (August 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195160479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195160475
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.7 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,866,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on October 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is often said that history is written by the victors, meaning, I suppose, that the particular interpretation recorded for posterity reflects the ideology and perspective of those dominating forces successful in the particular struggle a particular historical treatment covers. Of course, such a self-serving interpretation may in fact vary wildly from anything like an accurate accounting of the actual unfolding of events and issues. Nowhere in contemporary society is such an inaccurate, disingenuous, and self-serving revisionist tendency likely as in the coverage and reflection on the events and issues of the sixties counterculture. Many recent tomes purport the times in such a solipsistic and self-serving fashion as to turn the truth on its very head. Yet all that is corrected in this wonderful overview of the momentous events and social, economic, and political issues as characterized the sixties. In "America Divided", a fascinating work comparing the deep and dangerous divisions within American society to those of the Civil War a hundred years before, authors Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin accurately describe and explain the complex forces that seemed to strain the social fabric to the point of near-revolution and widespread violence in the streets.Read more ›
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Joe Brown on January 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In "America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960's," Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin effectively summarize a painfully divisive yet enlightening decade in our nation's history. By focusing on political, cultural, and economic changes wrought by both the liberal and conservative camps, Isserman and Kazin give a comprehensive and objective account of the 1960's. The authors begin by making an interesting point by comparing the sweeping changes wrought by the Civil War with that of the 1960's and make the assertion that both periods had much in common with how they both changed and divided America. In the 1950's, America enjoyed both an economic and diplomatic prosperity in the wake of World War II. The average family income increased and the "affluent society" which arose out of it ironically became an identifying factor in causing much of the political and social divisiveness prevalent in the 1960's. The authors' examination of the civil rights movement and the beginnings of the Vietnam War can be seen as by products of the liberal tendency to view the prosperity of the 1950's as unequal and leaving out the margins of both the poor and non-white population. The Vietnam War was a casualty of American overconfidence in its role in world affairs in the wake of the anti-communism of the 1950's. Isserman and Kazin effectively balance the issues of womens' rights, civil rights, the student movement, and the counterculture and examine their role in both liberal and conservative politics. The authors assert that the Right gained more popularity among voters after the tumultuous years from 1965-1968.Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tojagi on April 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
When I read that these authors were social activists in the 1960s I was bracing myself for a slanted history. Nothing of the kind. This is the most clear, concise, and unbiased account I've read. A textbook account. And it is all protein. No wasted words. I especially liked the four pages starting on page 68 where the authors explain how America got involved with Vietnam. I also appreciated the clear, concise explanation of the religious shake-up beginning on page 255. The Civil rights movement, the women's movement, sex, drugs, rock n roll, the war on poverty; it's all decribed in plain English. I couldn't find one single paragraph where I felt they were pushing an opinion. And perhaps that is why there are not more reviews for this book. People respond to political opinion and polemics. There's a general feeling among Americans that everyone must weigh-in on the sixties, take a side. This is true, I've noticed, even for those not old enough to remember the 60s.

But if you are looking for a `just the facts Ma'am' account of the sixties without all the confusion of opinions and theories, I doubt that you could find a better book. This book deserves five stars not for startling insights or carefully crafted arguments, but for accomplishing a difficult task: a completely unbiased account of a controversial era.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By gerardpeter on April 15, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is the 4th edition of a popular text. It serves well as a standard for High School.

It is concise rather comprehensive. The approach taken is chronological. Headline events and personalities are all included. Most principal themes are assessed. Appropriate pictures are incorporated into each chapter. The authors don’t court controversy, but offer considered views. They are strong on politics and culture, but weak on economics, in which neither has a background.

An early chapter looks back at the 1950s. The “60s” did not really begin until January 2 1963, the Viet Cong victory at the battle of Ap Bac. From then the war in Asia assumed a growing influence over all aspects of American life. The decade closed on August 9 1974 when Nixon resigned the Presidency.

The Vietnam War is discussed at some length and figures in most chapters of the book. Its cost brought down the welfare dreams of the Great Society, and ended the career of its architect, Johnson. The politics and policies of the four Presidents are covered in detail here, the achievements and failings of all being shrewdly weighed. The authors argue that a key feature of the period was the failure to establish a liberal consensus around the Democratic Party, and the often unnoticed rise of a more conservative Republican party. The New Left and evangelical right each played a role in this process.

Outside mainstream politics we see the emergence of a movement for women’s rights; legislative progress was made in that area. The politics of black liberation are more complex, as radical even revolutionary groups competed with and against moderate organisations and the federal government. Youth gets a chapter and the evolution of rock music in this decade is put in context.
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