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CHAPTER 10 The Post-Materialist Phenomenon J\. NEW Politics emerged throughout advanced industrial societies during the late 1960's. It was not without historical precedent; few things are. But it embodied a significant change from established patterns in two respects. It emphasized new issues (indeed, in a confused fashion, it seemed to be groping toward a new vision of society); and it reflected a change in the social basis of protest. There was protest in the middle of affluence and to a considerable degree the groups calling for change were no longer the economically deprived but the affluent. The emergence of a new type of protest in a time of high prosperity was not a matter of sheer coincidence. Economic collapse may have produced a swing to the Left in the 1930's, but a prolonged period of affluence and physical security led to the rise of a new Left in the late 1960's and early 1970's. This wave of protest had subsided by the mid1970 's: ironically enough, in a period of economic contraction, there was relative political calm. Great Britain constitutes the one striking exception to this pattern—a country in which things remained relatively calm during the wave of student protest, but where the politics of class confrontation were rather speedily revived in the 1970's. This chapter will undertake a retrospective view of politics in the late 1960's and early 1970's. We will touch on the example nearest at hand, the American one. But America was by no means unique in her political upheavals; one finds striking parallels in other countries that were neither at war nor in the grip of racial conflict. Our objective is to distinguish between pervasive patterns and phenomena linked with a specific time and place. In order to do so, it will be useful to review events in other advanced industrial societies. For underlying the events which took place in specific countries, we may find certain common forces at work. In seeking basic themes, the French case history seems particularly useful. A process that was diffuse and scattered over many Post-Materialist Phenomenon — 263 times and places in countries such as the United States or Germany was concentrated in a relatively brief but remarkably intense crisis in France. The attention of the French public was riveted on the questions posed by the New Politics. At the height of the crisis, it looked as if France might be on the brink of civil war. There was an extraordinary amount of soul-searching and a massive re-polarization of the French public along new lines. Let us attempt to recapture the mood and some of the key events of this era in the recent past. I. THE NEW POLITICS IN THE UNITED STATES AND WEST GERMANY The American Presidential election of 1968 was preceded by a spectacular and often violent drama in which a movement demanding radical change was led (symbolically at least) by Senator Eugene McCarthy. His troops consisted largely of younger members of the upper middle class, especially university students. Although the insurgents were turned back at the Chicago Democratic Party Convention, it was only after they had administered a series of shocks sufficient to bring about the virtual abdication of the Chief Executive. Four years later a broader but rather similar coalition went a step farther—it actually captured the Democratic Party's Presidential Nomination. Using a variety of novel tactics, a cadre of young, well-educated militants wrested control of the nation's largest party from the hands of more experienced bosses and kingmakers , many of whom had been in power before some of their key adversaries were born. The subsequent election produced a landslide victory for the Republican candidate and deep disillusionment for many of the McGovernites. Nevertheless, they had pulled off an astonishing coup. And the electoral results showed significant changes from previous patterns. For one, age became an important basis of political cleavage. As Axelrod points out, "The young, who were previously not part of anyone's coalition, made a large contribution to the Democratic coalition in 1972. In each previous election since 1952 people under thirty years of age accounted for only 13 percent to 15 percent of the Democratic votes, but in 1972 they accounted for fully 32 percent of the Democratic votes. . . . Their loyalty which 264 — Political Cleavages had never been more than 3 percent pro-Democratic since 1952 went up in 1972 to 12 percent pro-Democratic."1...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400869589
MARC Record
OCLC
933516258
Pages
496
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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