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The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage Paperback – July 1, 1993

3.8 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The author was elected president of Students for a Democratic Society in 1963, and he brings an insider's perspective to bear on the turbulent whirl of political, social, and sexual rebellion we now call "the sixties." Gitlin does a nice job of integrating his first-person recollections with a broader history that ranges from the roots of 1960s revolt in 1950s affluence and complacency to the movement's apocalyptic collapse in the early 1970s--a victim of its own excesses as well as governmental persecution. His lucid summary of the complex strands that intertwined to form the counterculture is essential basic reading for those who don't know the difference between the Diggers and the Yippies. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

Nobody is better equipped to write a definitive history of the extraordinary 1960s than Gitlin. An astute observer of the media (The Whole World Is Watching, Inside Prime Time and Watching Television), he was also at one time president of Students for a Democratic Society and remained prominent in their councils until the excesses of the Weathermen and the student risings that followed the 1970 killings at Kent State combined to bring the end of the New Left. In political terms, it was a period that could not be measured or evaluated by any previous American standards; and the great value of The Sixties is that Gitlin, from his thoughtful insider's position, is able to trace the ebb and flow between new radicals and old party-liners, between the hippies and such arcane groups as the Diggers and the Yippies, between those on the fringes of liberal power in Washington and members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee who worked so hard through the early part of the decade to bring civil rights to the South. No one who wants in future to write a coherent political history of that timeand there is no good reason, after The Sixties, for anyone to try for quite a whilewill be able to do without Gitlin's insights. He makes the agonized thrashings of the period understandable in terms of personal liberation, frustration, idealism and guilt about being born lucky in an unlucky world; he also manages to make it a logical sequel to the comfortable, complacent '50s. The detailed and informed political history is the core of the book, but nothing significant is missed: the music, the clothes, the obsession with drugs, the flowering of the underground press and, of course, the key moments: the assassinations, the demonstrations, the People's Park in Berkeley, the "police riot" at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, the Weathermen Manhattan townhouse blastit's all here, and vividly recorded. And finally, as Gitlin convincingly and elegiacally shows in his concluding chapter, we are still, in many subtle ways, living the legacy of that time, however unlikely that may seem. The Sixties is a triumph of lucidly written popular history.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Revised ed. edition (July 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553372122
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553372120
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I've published fifteen books, including, most recently, Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street; The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election (with Liel Leibovitz); The Bulldozer and the Big Tent: Blind Republicans, Lame Democrats, and the Recovery of American Ideals; other titles include The Intellectuals and the Flag; Letters to a Young Activist; Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives; The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America Is Wracked by Culture Wars; The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage; Inside Prime Time; The Whole World Is Watching; Uptown: Poor Whites in Chicago (co-author); three novels, Undying, Sacrifice and The Murder of Albert Einstein; and a book of poetry, Busy Being Born. These books have been translated into Japanese, Korean, Chinese, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. I also edited Watching Television and Campfires of the Resistance.

I've contributed to many books and published widely in general periodicals (The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Boston Globe, Dissent, The New Republic, The Nation, Wilson Quarterly, Harper's, American Journalism Review, Columbia Journalism Review, New York Observer, The American Prospect, et al.), online magazines (salon.com, tnr.com, prospect.org, openDemocracy.net, foreignpolicy.com), as well as scholarly journals. I'm on the editorial board of Dissent.

In 2000, Sacrifice won the Harold U. Ribalow Prize for books on Jewish themes. The Sixties and The Twilight of Common Dreams were Notable Books in the New York Times Book Review. Inside Prime Time received the nonfiction award of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association; The Sixties was a finalist for that award and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.

I hold degrees from Harvard University (B. A., mathematics), the University of Michigan (M. S., political science), and the University of California, Berkeley (Ph. D., sociology). I was the third president of Students for a Democratic Society, in 1963-64, and coordinator of the SDS Peace Research and Education Project in 1964-65, during which time he helped organize the first national demonstration against the Vietnam War and the first American demonstrations against corporate aid to the apartheid regime in South Africa. During 1968-69, I was an editor and writer for the San Francisco Express Times, and through 1970 wrote widely for the underground press. In 2003-06, I was a member of the Board of Directors of Greenpeace USA.

I'm a professor of journalism and sociology and chair of the Ph. D. program in Communications at Columbia University. Earlier, I was for sixteen years a professor of sociology and director of the mass communications program at the University of California, Berkeley, and then for seven years a professor of culture, journalism and sociology at New York University. During 1994-95, I held the chair in American Civilization at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. I've been a resident at the Bellagio Study Center in Italy and the Djerassi Foundation in Woodside, California, a Bosch Fellow at the American Academy of Berlin, a fellow at the Media Studies Center in New York, and a visiting professor at Yale University, the University of Oslo, the University of Toronto, East China Normal University in Shanghai, the Institut Supérieur des Langues de Tunis in Tunisia, and the Université de Neuchatel in Switzerland.

I lecture frequently on culture and politics in the United States and abroad (Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Russia, Greece, Turkey, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada, Mexico, Morocco, Switzerland). I've appeared on many National Public Radio programs including Fresh Air as well as PBS, ABC, CBS and CNN. I lives in New York City with my wife, Laurel Cook.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A rare constellation of virtues made it hard to put down this riveting volume. First of all, Gitlin is a superb writer. His language often reaches a literary quality, he has a novelist's eye for detail, an investigative journalist's command of the relevant information, and a story-teller's ability with narrative. That Gitlin is an academic sociologist shows through in his capable analyses of social forces. His description of the dynamics of escalation in the student movement's activities together with its own self-understanding is especially enlightening. His account is also impressively fair-minded. Because he cared so much about achieving the goals of the student movement, Gitlin describes what was thought and done both sympathetically and critically. These and other reasons make the book well worth reading for anyone interested in U.S. culture. But for those of us who were involved in the campus struggles against the war in Nicaragua or against investment in apartheid South Africa in the '80's or, indeed, in any such campaigns since, this book creates a debt of gratitude.
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Todd Gitlin's account of the sixties is part history, part autobiography. As a sometime president of SDS Gitlin was fully immersed in the actions of that period and discusses them with an intensity and level of specificity that most later historians would not be able to muster. At the same time, Gitlin is one of the country's premier sociologists dealing with media, culture and life as lived and experienced.

He is scrupulously fair--fair to his own principles and fair to his own experiences, but equally fair with regard to reality. He does not whitewash the sixties; he chronicles them. He does so with a clear eye for their idealism and their earnestness as well as their excess. He sees their successes and he sees their long-term deleterious effects.

Basically, the story is a simple one. The sixties' political movements worked in two directions: to help others and to free the self. The former was much more successful than the latter. The former now enjoys widespread support (for black civil rights and women's rights in particular). The protests against the war and the manner in which the war was justified and prosecuted are a more complex issue that continues to be divisive. The expansion of the space for the self, on the other hand, is more subject to criticism, particularly in the effects which Gitlin itemizes--the ravages of drugs, challenges to family commitment, out of wedlock births, grade inflation, and so on.

The book is long, as it needs to be, but it is beautifully written. The style is paratactic and additive, breathlessly listing events, names, issues, lifestyles, successes and ravages. A number of sociologists write well, but few as well as Gitlin. He is also a novelist.
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Format: Paperback
In writings about the 1960s in the US, Gitlin offers the reader a rare combination of both the perspective of a major player in the New Left at that time, and as an astude political commentator in his own right. There are, however, deficiencies in regarding the text as a good academic history of the period, as other reviewers have noted.

My particular research, and reason for reading this book, relates to the demise of SDS, and in discussing this, Gitlin frequently talks in greater detail about personalities rather than abstract, but vital, political fact. Indeed, on several occasions the author goes as far as to declare his personal dislike for several of the Weatherman leaders on the grounds of their political differences. Certainly not the stuff of academic surveys.

Perhaps best taken and used as a well-written and historically precarious yet valuable biography, rather than as some kind of definitive text of the 60s. Contains full notes and index, but no bibliographic essay.
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By ozzy on December 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
THE 1960's in some respects was a decade like any other: a fixed span of time filled with otherwise disparate events. But ''The Sixties'' also came to mean something more: a style, a mood, a spirit of youthful rebelliousness with its own marketable aura of excess, adventure and innocent, shoot-for-the-moon idealism. Once that spirit was spent, as Todd Gitlin writes in ''The Sixties,'' a compelling new firsthand account of the era, the decade quickly ''receded into haze and myth,'' leaving behind only a few ''lingering images of nobility and violence,'' of charismatic martyrs and mobs in the street, ''a collage of fragments scooped together as if a whole decade took place in an instant.'' Today when pundits debate a possible resurrection of the 60's, they usually have in mind a superficially similar pastiche of trends, from paisleyed fashion and renewed evidence of dissent on campus to well-publicized displays of political conscience by popular rock stars.

Mr. Gitlin's ambitious effort to cut through the nostalgia and myth surrounding the 60's takes an unusual form. Working, as he puts it, ''at the edge of history and autobiography,'' he has written a wide-ranging narrative that oscillates between the first and third person, incorporating both new research on key episodes and potted histories of folk-rock music, hippies, the origins of the women's movement and so forth.

What is important in the book - and what makes it required reading for anyone who wants to grasp the youthful spirit of the time - is the author's highly personal chronicle of the rise and violent collapse of the New Left. Without false sentimentality, he re-creates the political odyssey of the radicals of his generation, as well as his own role in that odyssey.
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