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Farewell to Prosperity

Wealth, Identity, and Conflict in Postwar America

Lisle A. Rose

Publication Year: 2014

Farewell to Prosperity is a provocative, in-depth study of the Liberal and Conservative forces that fought each other to shape American political culture and character during the nation’s most prosperous years. The tome’s central theme is the bitter struggle to fashion post–World War II society between a historic Protestant Ethic that equated free-market economics and money-making with Godliness and a new, secular Liberal temperament that emerged from the twin ordeals of depression and world war to stress social justice and security.

Liberal policies and programs after 1945 proved key to the creation of mass affluence while encouraging disadvantaged racial, ethnic, and social groups to seek equal access to power. But liberalism proved a zero-sum game to millions of others who felt their sense of place and self progressively unhinged. Where it did not overturn traditional social relationships and assumptions, liberalism threatened and, in the late sixties and early seventies, fostered new forces of expression at radical odds with the mindset and customs that had previously defined the nation without much question.

When the forces of liberalism overreached, the Protestant Ethic and its millions of estranged religious and economic proponents staged a massive comeback under the aegis of Ronald Reagan and a revived Republican Party. The financial hubris, miscalculations, and follies that followed ultimately created a conservative overreach from which the nation is still recovering. Post–World War II America was thus marked by what writer Salman Rushdie labeled in another context “thin-skinned years of rage-defined identity politics.” This “politics” and its meaning form the core of the narrative.

Farewell to Prosperity is no partisan screed enlisting recent history to support one side or another. Although absurdity abounds, it knows no home, affecting Conservative and Liberal actors and thinkers alike.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-xii

Money and race have composed the master narratives of American history. But the civil rights impulse of the past fifty years with its vigorous supporting scholarship has elevated the importance of the latter while unwarrantedly eclipsing the central place of the former.1 Yet it was the demands of a...

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Chapter 1. Schism in the Soul

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pp. 1-32

On April 12, 1945, Franklin Delano Roosevelt abruptly passed from the national and global scenes he had dominated for a dozen years. He left behind a world still at war, a legion of stunned followers, and a blueprint for the future.
Over the previous five years, Washington had drafted and enlisted some...

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Chapter 2. Flush Times

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pp. 33-67

Finally, it was over. “Step into the Signature Room, sign the final discharge papers, get some back pay, a handshake, a discharge button, and suddenly you’re a civilian. Suddenly. Perhaps too suddenly. The frame was waiting for you to fit into it. But how sure were you of anything anymore?”1
So much had changed. If the war had enriched the nation, it had impoverished

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Chapter 3. Cold War Imprisonment

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pp. 68-112

In the autumn of 1945, US Army Chief of Staff George Catlett Marshall submitted his “Victory Report” to Secretary of War Henry Stimson. “Never was the strength of the American democracy so evident nor has it ever been so clearly within our power to give definite guidance for our course into the future...

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Chapter 4. Jacob’s Ladder

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pp. 113-133

As World War II came to an end, a few outspoken southern intellectuals, including Ralph McGill, editor-in-chief of the Atlanta Constitution, and Virginius Dabney of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, admitted that their beloved region was becoming dangerously anachronistic. Other southern whites...

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Chapter 5. Troubles in the Making

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pp. 134-167

The young members of the veteran generation who came to power with John F. Kennedy in 1961 thought they had a handle on the world. If America and the world did not get the message, Kennedy pounded it home on that snowy January noon on the Capitol steps: the torch had been passed...

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Chapter 6. Varieties of Dissent

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pp. 168-197

By 1961 young William F. Buckley had carved a unique niche for himself in the pantheon of national opinion makers by acting as a bridge between conservative traditionalists such as Friedrich Hayek and Russell Kirk and the outright fantasy worlds of a Radical Right that was progressively hijacking...

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Chapter 7. Liberal Overreach

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pp. 198-264

By 1964 America was becoming a country of the young, by the young, and for the young. An impatient, rebellious new generation of blacks and whites, men and women, responded to issues—racism, sexism, Third World revolution—that promised to unite the downtrodden across the globe. And everywhere at home and abroad, they believed, stood treacherous power structures...

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Chapter 8. Volte Face

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pp. 265-321

Like an automobile running out of gas at ninety miles an hour, the momentum of change unleashed in the sixties did not cease abruptly but rather carried well into the following decade. By 1974, however, widespread reaction combined with creeping economic problems began to revive the temperament...

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Chapter 9. Back to the Future

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pp. 322-343

Ronald Reagan swept into power amid a flamboyant display of wealth and privilege—a “bacchanalia of the Haves,” as one bemused observer noted. Throughout those first days of January 1981, “vanguards of a new era” filled the capital, “bearing special inaugural plates with names of corporations that had...

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Chapter 10. Conservative Overreach

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pp. 344-404

The headlines and stories that appeared in the summer of 2012 were sadly typical of American finance since the 1980s. “A Chief with Flair Falls from a Perch. Robert E. Diamond, Jr., a fiercely competitive Wall Street executive who hated to lose,” was besieged by demands for his resignation from...


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pp. 405-436

Select Bibliography

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pp. 437-452


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pp. 453-479

E-ISBN-13: 9780826273239
E-ISBN-10: 0826273238
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826220295
Print-ISBN-10: 0826220290

Page Count: 488
Publication Year: 2014