Letters
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July/August 2008 · Historically Speaking 39 ciently. Obviously, there is a lot of unfinished business from that period diat we're having to address again today. The other aspect has to do with consciousness . Feminism, for instance, shifted from a movement that resented prejudice and exploitation to a much more modern, more American story of untapped possibilities. That really transformed people's lives. Stephens: But can't you also point to the seventies as the time of the great conservative reaction against feminism, the time of Phyllis Schlafly? Hine: If you're looking at the movement in a political way, maybe Phyllis Schlafly and the defeat of the ERA is the biggest story. But if you are looking at the way people lived dieir lives, maybe Tide 9 is the biggest story. That became thoroughly institutionalized and really changed expectations of just what women can and will do physically. It's a deeply radical change: women are expected to be athletic now. Stephens: Your chapter on consciousness includes so much—from nudism to evangelicalism and all points in between. People tried to make sense of their lives in so many different ways and created so many new identities. Hine: I grew up in the fifties with the idea of one kind of progress and big corporations and big government . The conformism of the fifties is often overstated, but there was a sense then of only one form of progress, and it was leading toward the moon. People thought that that way of life, that vision of technology and progress, would go on forever . But when people soured on that vision, it opened all kinds of possibilities for them to say, 'There are other ways to think about what is good and to understand progress and identity and what I am." I think it's hard to overstate the importance of that. An anti-Equal Rights Amendment demonstration outside of the White House, February 4, 1977. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division (reproduction number, LC-U9-33889A31 /31A1. Stephens: What happened to the wackier side of consciousness raising, the power of pyramids , etc.? Hine: It's still around. Stephens: But does it still have the same kind of cultural power that it had in the seventies? Hine: The mass media of that time reported on outbreaks of eccentricity from the point of view of authority. Now the magazine that répons on pyramid power is written for the people who believe in pyramid power. There are specialized magazines and cable channels, and now die Web allows each person to be his own authority. Stephens: Did the seventies witness the birth of a pluralist postmodernism, one that rejects the overarching narrative of enlightened progress that shaped the fifties? Hine: I'm not sure that we can conflate postwar culture with the Enlightenment, but I see what you're getting at. Stephens: What do you think about American popular culture today? Hine: Reagan came into office and pulled the solar panels off of the White House roof and said we don't need to worry about those any more. Now we're back to worrying about them. A number of issues that shaped die seventies and then went into a kind of recession in the eighties and nineties are now back in circulation again. There are obvious parallels between our era and die seventies. Yet our society is very different now. We are much more diverse and racially mixed. The seventies came at the end of an atypical period in American history during which there was virtually no immigration. Now we are a very differently constituted society. A presidential candidate like Barack Obama would have been inconceivable in die seventies. Letters MoralJudgments and History In my opinion, the proper role of the historian is to recapture and analyze the past rather than to pass moral judgments. However that may be, I write not as a historian but as a former soldier. Having read die forum on Michael Bess's Choices UnderFire: Moral Dimensions of World WarII, but not die book, I wonder how in his moral calculus he would factor in the huge sigh of relief breathed on August 6, 1945 by...


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