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The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America's Politics and Culture Paperback – July 22, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

More than any other cause, economic prosperity transformed the United States after World War II into a nation unlike any other in recorded history, posits Lindsey of the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute. Although Lindsey (Dead Hand: The Uncertain Struggle for Global Capitalism) acknowledges that millions of Americans live below the poverty line, he argues that mass prosperity changed the equation in many areas, including gender relations, race relations, labor-management relations, parent-child dynamics and organized religion. The result was the rise of a politically liberal counterculture, a politically conservative backlash, the labeling of blue states and red states, and a multitude of other political phenomenon. Although the book offers details about political campaigning, drug use, and the rise of rock and roll music among other events that made headlines from the 1950s into the 21st century, the details often overwhelm Lindsey's hypothesis. Ultimately, the book reads more like a college freshman survey course textbook than a compelling narrative. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Freed of the struggle to meet basic needs, Americans have been privileged to focus on their wants. With breathtaking analysis, Lindsey, vice president of research at the Cato Institute, offers a dizzying look back over American economics, politics, and culture to examine the complexities of abundance. Improvements to everyday life, from electricity to clothing, have led to preoccupations with self-realization, equal rights, and relentless struggles between the political Left and Right. Drawing on observations from Karl Marx, Abraham Maslow, and Herbert Marcuse, among others, Lindsey traces the transformation of American culture as prosperity has shaken tried-and-true social conventions and the organizing principles that centered on the allocation of scarce resources. Prosperity has brought with it a sense that anything is possible. Lindsey pinpoints the current tensions between the political Left and Right to a 1967 San Francisco love-in and the opening of Oral Roberts University, both "eruptions of millenarian enthusiasm." Despite the tumult, Lindsey sees common ground as more Americans adopt a libertarian view, affirming core values while making allowances for different lifestyles. Readers from a broad spectrum of beliefs will appreciate the breadth and ardor of Lindsey's analysis, if not his conclusions. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; Reprint edition (July 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060747676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060747671
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Ikenson on May 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Brink Lindsey is neither an ideologue nor a cultural warrior. He is an especially gifted storyteller whose enthusiasm for his subject is obvious, genuine, and endearing. The Age of Abundance is the product of an objective inquiry, and its conclusions about where America is and the implications about where it is heading are refreshingly nonpartisan and hopeful.
In the book's subtitles, Lindsey promises to answer two questions: How prosperity transformed America's politics and culture? Why the culture wars made us more libertarian? He fulfills his obligations with compelling data, anecdotes, pop culture allusions, and sundry vignettes from each of the post-WWII decades.
The driving theme of the book is that, in the aftermath of 15 years of economic depression followed by world war, America, with its accumulated wealth and pent up demand was on the verge of a socio-economic big bang. With human sustenance all but assured for most Americans, the realm of material necessity (where all of life's energies were devoted to fulfilling life's basic requirements), which had defined the human condition for millennia, was relegated to history. The possibilities for human enterprise, association, expression, and actualization were about to change.
Providing the locomotion for the vast and rapid social change and its echoes was the dawn of the Age of Aquarius (the countercultural emergence) and the subsequent Evangelical Revival in response. One of Brink's gifts is his capacity for succinct interpretation. Thus, the essence of the culture wars boils down to this: "one side attacked capitalism while rejoicing in its fruits [the Aquarians, broadly defined]; the other side celebrated capitalism while denouncing its fruits as poisonous[...].
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In an increasingly complex world, books that distill meaning out of all the noise -- that give us a strong sense of where we are and how we got there -- are both rare and precious. Brink Lindsey (my colleague at the Cato Institute) has written one of those books. The Age of Abundance tells the story of how the economic success of post-WWII America created space for a renewed quest for meaning, and how that quest reshaped our culture. The new material abundance created rapid and sometimes frightening change, which helped motivate the resurgence of fundamentalist Christianity. But the same abundance also enabled young baby boomers -- chafing under the constraints of "square" business-as-usual conservative America -- to undertake new experiments in living, producing the cultural convulsions of the 1960s. According to Lindsey, the rise of Christian fundamentalism and counter-cultural liberation were reactions to the same root causes, and today's "culture wars" faintly echo the original dynamic. But for the most part, the culture wars are over, and American society has produced a soft libertarian consensus -- you know, "socially liberal, fiscally consrvative" -- that blends elements of the conservative religious right, and the radical countercultural left. This doesn't make the arbiters of either left or right orthodoxy very happy, but it suits most Americans just fine. In conclusion Lindsey persuasively lay out a moderate libertarian politics that transcends the tired "red state/blue state" dialectic.

But Age of Abundance is less an argument and more a story. This is a historically rich book, bulging with fascinating historical detail that explains how we got from there to here more plausibly than any book in recent memory.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Izaak VanGaalen on July 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Brink Lindsey of the libertarian Cato Institute recounts the story of American prosperity that followed World War II. Although countless others have written about this phenomenon, Lindsey's take of these events is fresh and insightful, and, not surprisely, vindicates his libertarian worldview.

According to Lindsey, the mass affluence that ushered in after World War II lifted us out of "the realm of necessity" and into "the realm of freedom." For the first time in human history the vast majority no longer struggled to obtain the basic necessities of life. Many would debate this point, but statistically one could prove that even the poor were better off than in previous time or place.

Leaving the age of scarcity and entering the age of abundance, Americans were suddenly faced proliferation of choices, arguably turning them into a different kind of people. Not only did this unleash a quest for material wealth, but also a desire for political and cultural change. The age of abundance produced two antithetical social movements that upended the peaceful harmony of the 1950s. For the left of the 1960s and 70s, mass affluence created new possibilities for personal growth and greater tolerance and opportunity for women and minorities. The left, however, was dismissive of business culture and traditional family values, and failed to see how they were in fact responsible for the prosperity that they were enjoying. On the other side was the evangelical Christian right who was more protective of capitalism and tradition, but who were very intolerant of the newfound freedoms and lifestyles that were being explored.

During the 1980s and 90s, the cultural wars between these two camps raged, especially on election years.
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