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Book cover of "Bad Old Days": The Myth of the 1950s

"Bad Old Days": The Myth of the 1950s

by Alan Levine

Publisher: Transaction Publishers
Pages: 179
Hardcover
ISBN: 9781412807456






Available to Buy

Overview of "Bad Old Days": The Myth of the 1950s

For many, especially those on the political left, the 1950s are the "bad old days." The widely accepted list of what was allegedly wrong with that decade includes the Cold War, McCarthyism, racial segregation, self-satisfied prosperity, and empty materialism. The failings are coupled with ignoring poverty and other social problems, complacency, conformity, the suppression of women, and puritanical attitudes toward sex. In all, the conventional wisdom sees the decade as bland and boring, with commonly accepted people paralyzed with fear of war, Communism, or McCarthyism, or all three.

Alan J. Levine, shows that the commonly accepted picture of the 1950s is flawed. It distorts a critical period of American history. That distortion seems to be dictated by an ideological agenda, including an emotional obsession with a sentimentalized version of the 1960s that in turn requires maintaining a particular, misleading view of the post-World War II era that preceded it. Levine argues that a critical view of the 1950s is embedded in an unwillingness to realistically evaluate the evolution of American society since the 1960s. Many—and not only liberals and those further to the left—desperately desire to avoid seeing, or admitting, just how badly many things have gone in the United States since the 1960s.

Bad Old Days shows that the conventional view of the 1950s stands in opposition to the reality of the decade. Far from being the dismal prelude to a glorious period of progress, the postwar period of the late 1940s and 1950s was an era of unprecedented progress and prosperity. This era was then derailed by catastrophic political and economic misjudgments and a drastic shift in the national ethos that contributed nothing, or less than nothing, to a better world.

Synopsis of "Bad Old Days": The Myth of the 1950s


For many, especially those on the political left, the 1950s are the "bad old days." The widely accepted list of what was allegedly wrong with that decade includes the Cold War, McCarthyism, racial segregation, self-satisfied prosperity, and empty materialism. The failings are coupled with ignoring poverty and other social problems, complacency, conformity, the suppression of women, and puritanical attitudes toward sex. In all, the conventional wisdom sees the decade as bland and boring, with commonly accepted people paralyzed with fear of war, Communism, or McCarthyism, or all three.
Alan J. Levine, shows that the commonly accepted picture of the 1950s is flawed. It distorts a critical period of American history. That distortion seems to be dictated by an ideological agenda, including an emotional obsession with a sentimentalized version of the 1960s that in turn requires maintaining a particular, misleading view of the post-World War II era that preceded it. Levine argues that a critical view of the 1950s is embedded in an unwillingness to realistically evaluate the evolution of American society since the 1960s. Many—and not only liberals and those further to the left-desperately desire to avoid seeing, or admitting, just how badly many things have gone in the United States since the 1960s.
Bad Old Days shows that the conventional view of the 1950s stands in opposition to the reality of the decade. Far from being the dismal prelude to a glorious period of progress, the postwar period of the late 1940s and 1950s was an era of unprecedented progress and prosperity. This era was then derailed by catastrophic political and economic misjudgments and a drastic shift in thenational ethos that contributed nothing, or less than nothing, to a better world.

About the Author, Alan Levine

Alan J. Levine is an adjunct professor of history at Borough of Manhattan Community College. His fields of research are modern Russian history and twentieth-century international relations. He is the author of many books including The Soviet Union, The Communist Movement and the World, The Missile and Space Race, and Flight, Captivity and Survival in World War Two.

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Editorials

From the Publisher

"I graduated from high school in 1959 and have always looked back on the 1950s with appreciation. Now it is great to find from Alan J. Levine's fine book Bad Old Days: The Myth of the 1950s, that these days were pretty darn good, just as I suspected. In this short, wise work Levine chronicles the successes of the 50s: low unemployment and widespread economic prosperity; an expansive consumer society and the growth of home ownership; substantial progress in race relations progress in race relations; notable scientific achievements; significant social criticism from both right and left, and an exciting popular culture from Hollywood and TV, together with good work in high culture; and much more. Even "McCarthyism" was short-lived and limited (though this chapter could still serve as the topic for a seminar of dissent from a variety of perspectives). Levine does not argue that all was right with the world of the 50s, (indeed he has his own criticisms that may themselves be criticized) but he does show that in contrast to what would come in the next few decades there was much that remains worthy of praise."
– Dennis Williams, Professor of History-Emeritus

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