Top positive review
It was a very good year?
on September 10, 2016
Kaplan makes an excellent case the year 1959 was one, if not ‘the’, turning point for subsequent decades of USA history. The book is clearly an introduction to forces leading up to what happened in 1960 and rest of the decade. Among other things the USA dominant position in international affairs includes much of what happened in 1959. He writes history as literature including insights typically not found in more traditional historians such as Paul Johnson. Johnson’s “Modern Times” hypothesizes that relativity theory spread as a forceful idea effectively permuting subsequent socio-cultural and economic patterns of world history. Johnson’s book covers history from 1919 to 1979 compared to one year for Kaplan. ‘1959’ is essentially only concerned with historical experiences in the USA.
The thesis of Kaplan’s book is stated in early pages as “A feeling took hold that the breakdown of barriers in space, speed and time made other barriers ripe for transgressing.” This is directly comparable to the first chapter in Johnson’s book “Modern Times” which articulates events confirming relativity dating from physical measurements made in the critical year 1919. “It was”, Johnson states, “as though the globe had been taken off its axis and cast adrift in a universe which no longer conformed to accustomed standards of measurements.” It was felt there were, therefore, few or perhaps no standards for measuring all human behavior any more. Reading Kaplan (2008) and Johnson (1992) together is not a bad idea though Kaplan is the more current and fluent of the two.
Robert, another Kaplan, also writes (“The Coming Anarchy”) from a different piont of view about threats of nation-state disintegration he traces to tribalism and sectarianism. Both of these are consequences, and as well as influences, of events in 1959, 1919 and subsequent worldwide socio-politco-economic changes of every ilk. A common thread in all of these books is technology which, for the curious, leads to reading many other books being published distinctly establishing power of technology to influence everything in human life as well as the environment.
While there is much to be gained by reading all three of these books selecting just “1959” supplies a broader discussion of all diverse and complex forces affecting the world today begun in a single year The most important element left out of these books is climate change. Tracing exact influences between climate and socio-politico-economic forces is more complex but are clearly definable vector forces as in corporate drive to capture large segments of earth’s surface for the mineral values. Explicit and elementary actions damaging localities as in eastern USA coal or Peruvian copper mines for example.