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No Direction Home

The American Family and the Fear of National Decline, 1968-1980

Natasha Zaretsky

Publication Year: 2007

Between 1968 and 1980, fears about family deterioration and national decline were ubiquitous in American political culture. In ###No Direction Home#, Natasha Zaretsky shows that these perceptions of decline profoundly shaped one another. Throughout the 1970s, anxieties about the future of the nuclear family collided with anxieties about the direction of the United States in the wake of military defeat in Vietnam and in the midst of economic recession, Zaretsky explains. By exploring such themes as the controversy surrounding prisoners of war in Southeast Asia, the OPEC oil embargo of 1973@-74, and debates about cultural narcissism, Zaretsky reveals that the 1970s marked a significant turning point in the history of American nationalism. After Vietnam, a wounded national identity--rooted in a collective sense of injury and fueled by images of family peril--exploded to the surface and helped set the stage for the Reagan Revolution. With an innovative analysis that integrates cultural, intellectual, and political history, ###No Direction Home# explores the fears that not only shaped an earlier era but also have reverberated into our own time. Zaretsky demonstrates how, in the 1970s, anxieties about the future of the traditional nuclear family coincided with anxieties about the direction of the United States in the wake of military defeat in Vietnam and in the midst of economic recession and diminishing energy resources. Chapters examine the topics of American MIAs & POWs in Southeast Asia, the OPEC oil embargo, debates about a “productivity lag” in the steel and auto industries, the 1976 bicentennial celebration, and discussions of narcissism at the end of the decade. She argues that the 1970s represent a significant turning point in American nationalism: after Vietnam there emerged an American nationalism rooted in a collective sense of injury and fueled by images of family peril which ultimately helped set the stage for the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s. Throughout the 1970s, anxieties about diminishing paternal authority and the future of the nuclear family collided with anxieties about the direction of the United States in the wake of military defeat in Vietnam and in the midst of economic recession, Zaretsky explains. After Vietnam, a wounded national identity--rooted in a collective sense of injury and fueled by images of family peril--exploded to the surface and helped set the stage for the Reagan Revolution. With an innovative analysis that integrates cultural, intellectual, and political history, Zaretsky explores the fears that not only shaped an earlier era but also have reverberated into our own time. Between 1968 and 1980, fears about family deterioration and national decline were ubiquitous in American political culture. In ###No Direction Home#, Natasha Zaretsky shows that these perceptions of decline profoundly shaped one another. Throughout the 1970s, anxieties about the future of the nuclear family collided with anxieties about the direction of the United States in the wake of military defeat in Vietnam and in the midst of economic recession, Zaretsky explains. By exploring such themes as the controversy surrounding prisoners of war in Southeast Asia, the OPEC oil embargo of 1973–74, and debates about cultural narcissism, Zaretsky reveals that the 1970s marked a significant turning point in the history of American nationalism. After Vietnam, a wounded national identity--rooted in a collective sense of injury and fueled by images of family peril--exploded to the surface and helped set the stage for the Reagan Revolution. With an innovative analysis that integrates cultural, intellectual, and political history, ###No Direction Home# explores the fears that not only shaped an earlier era but also have reverberated into our own time.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-9

Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xii

I was born in San Francisco in 1970, and my parents were activists in the New Left, antiwar, and feminist movements of the era. Their activism provides the backdrop for my earliest childhood memories: playing with toys in the back office of the bookstore where my father helped edit a radical journal; ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-24

Between 1968 and 1980, a succession of upheavals challenged a confident assumption of the previous two decades: that the United States possessed the political, military, economic, and moral resources to prevail in world affairs and provide for domestic prosperity. By 1968 the war in Vietnam had deeply wounded the moral authority of the United States. ...

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1. Homeward Unbound: Prisoners of War, National Defeat, and the Crisis of Male Authority

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pp. 25-70

On 6 March 1970, the House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services gathered to hear the testimony of a small group of military wives whose husbands had disappeared over the jungles and waters of Southeast Asia.1 The purpose of the hearing was to call attention to the failure of the North Vietnamese to comply with the guidelines for prisoners of war laid out in the 1949 Geneva Accords. ...

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2. Getting the House in Order: The Oil Embargo, Consumption, and the Limits of American Power

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pp. 71-104

On 29 March 1973 President Nixon appeared on national television and announced that the Vietnam War was over. For the first time in twelve years, there were no American forces in Vietnam, and the POWs were on their way home. The time had come for Americans to “put aside those honest differences about war which divide us” ...

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3. “The Great Male Cop-Out”: Productivity Lag and the End of the Family Wage

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pp. 105-142

On 3 March 1972 autoworkers in Lordstown, Ohio, shut down the plant that General Motors had predicted would set a new standard for productivity and competitiveness within the American automobile industry. Hailed in the business press as the “plant of the future” when it opened in 1966, Lordstown was stocked with the most sophisticated machinery and time-saving devices. ...

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4. The Spirit of ’76: The Bicentennial and Cold War Revivalism

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pp. 143-182

Writing in the journal Public Interest in the fall of 1975, as the country prepared for its upcoming Bicentennial celebration, Daniel Patrick Moynihan reflected on America’s Centennial one hundred years earlier. Like the commemoration that was fast approaching, the Centennial, Moynihan recalled, had also taken place during a time of great national upheaval. ...

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5. The World as a Mirror: Narcissism, “Malaise,” and the Middle-Class Family

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pp. 183-222

In March 1977, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held its fiftieth annual awards ceremony, at which the film Network was among the most honored films of 1976. The film told the story of Howard Beale, a veteran news anchorman, who, upon learning that he is going to be fired due to poor ratings, announces on live television that he has decided to kill himself. ...

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Conclusion: The Familial Roots of Republican Domination

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pp. 223-246

In recent years, historians and social theorists have revised their understanding of American national identity. It had long been assumed that American political culture was dominated by a civic nationalism, often referred to as the American Creed, that defines the United States as a multicultural and universalistic society made up of diverse groups united by democratic and individualist principles. ...

Notes

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pp. 247-286

Bibliography

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pp. 287-304

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 305-306

I have incurred many debts in the years that I have worked on this book, and it gives me pleasure to acknowledge them here. Thanks first to the many archivists who offered me invaluable assistance along the way. Archivists at the J. Walter Thompson Company Archives, the Gerald R. Ford Library, the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, ...

Index

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pp. 307-320


E-ISBN-13: 9781469604428
E-ISBN-10: 1469604426
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807830949
Print-ISBN-10: 0807830941

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 18 illus.
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Middle class -- United States -- Economic conditions.
  • Middle class -- Political activity -- United States.
  • Middle class -- United States -- History.
  • United States -- Social conditions -- 1960-1980.
  • United States -- Politics and government.
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