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More Equal Than Others

More Equal Than Others: America from Nixon to the New Century

Godfrey Hodgson
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    More Equal Than Others
    Book Description:

    During the past quarter century, free-market capitalism was recognized not merely as a successful system of wealth creation, but as the key determinant of the health of political and cultural democracy. Now, renowned British journalist and historian Godfrey Hodgson takes aim at this popular view in a book that promises to become one of the most important political histories of our time.More Equal Than Otherslooks back on twenty-five years of what Hodgson calls "the conservative ascendancy" in America, demonstrating how it has come to dominate American politics.

    Hodgson disputes the notion that the rise of conservatism has spread affluence and equality to the American people. Quite the contrary, he writes, the most distinctive feature of American society in the closing years of the twentieth century was its great and growing inequality. He argues that the combination of conservative ideology and corporate power and dominance by mass media obsessed with lifestyle and celebrity have caused America to abandon much of what was best in its past. In fact, he writes, income and wealth inequality have become so extreme that America now resembles the class-stratified societies of early twentieth-century Europe.

    More Equal Than Othersaddresses a broad range of issues, with chapters on politics, the new economy, immigration, technology, women, race, and foreign policy, among others. A fitting sequel to the author's critically acclaimedAmerica In Our Time,More Equal Than Othersis not only an outstanding synthesis of history, but a trenchant commentary on the state of the American Dream.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2595-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Richard C. Leone

    By any measure the United States is a stupendously successful nation. Its citizens have been blessed with vast natural resources, renewed by waves of diverse and energetic immigration, guarded by two great oceans, and fortunate in the size and dynamism of their domestic marketplace. It is fair to say they have made the most of it. Today, the United States is recognized as uniquely powerful and influential.

    Moreover, at least since John Winthrop’s “City on the Hill” vision in 1630, a good deal of our national self-consciousness has involved the notion that we should be widely admired and even emulated....

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction: Disappointment and Denial
    (pp. xvii-xxvi)

    This book is an attempt to understand what has happened in the United States over the last quarter of the twentieth century. More specifically, it is an attempt to say some things that—I think—need to be said because they are not part of either of the two ruling narratives, the liberal recessional or conservative triumphalism. It is widely asserted that politics has become irrelevant to modern Americans and that government is not part of the solution but part of the problem. On the contrary, my central contention is that the power of democratic government, restrained by the American...

  6. 1 State of the Union
    (pp. 1-28)

    In the year 1975, the mood of the United States was perplexed, morose, and uncertain. For the first time in the modern era, the nation had lost a war. For the first time, a president had been driven from office in disgrace. It was said that the American Dream would be denied to many, because for the first time a generation of Americans would be worse off than their parents.¹ For the first time, Americans, “people of plenty,”² used to a culture of abundance, confronted the prospect of not being self-sufficient in energy and in some key raw materials.³


  7. 2 New Politics
    (pp. 29-60)

    The “neoconservatives” of the 1970s liked to speak of the law of unintended consequences. There is no such law, of course. They meant simply that you could argue against any proposal for government action, and they disapproved of most on principle, by suggesting that no one could be sure what its consequences would be.

    The logic is fallacious. But it is certainly true that many acts of public policy do have consequences that are unintended, and few major pieces of legislation have had as many of those as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Its consequences for American politics have...

  8. 3 New Technology
    (pp. 61-86)

    A new technology promised a new economy, and the new economy in turn would make possible a new politics and a new society. That was the dream that inspired President Clinton and many others as the old century ended and a new millennium began.

    To be sure, such idealistic visions of a new society were mixed up in many minds with more material dreams. The illusion that new technology could indefinitely improve productivity translated into the hope of a bull run on the stock market that would be projected to infinity, or at least to “the Dow at 36,000.”¹ But...

  9. 4 New Economics
    (pp. 87-111)

    By the beginning of the new century it was all but official. The United States had developed a New Economy. The stock market seemed to confirm it. Business was sure of it, and business’s favorite publications—theWall Street Journal, Fortune,andBusiness Weekforemost among them—enthusiastically embroidered the theme. The president and his men endorsed the New Economy,¹ and so did the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

    For some years it had been apparent that the economy was going well. Unemployment was low, and falling. Inflation was low. Economic activity was high, and so, higher and higher, were...

  10. 5 New Immigrants
    (pp. 112-138)

    Nothing that happened in the United States over the last third of the twentieth century—not terrorism, the explosion of new technology, or the transformation of politics or the end of the Cold War, not even the profound changes in the status and expectations and role of American women—will have more long-term consequences for the future of the United States than the new immigration.

    By the end of the twentieth century demographic changes were irrevocably in place that would, by the middle of the twenty-first, utterly transform the genetic and, almost certainly as a consequence, the cultural character of...

  11. 6 New Women
    (pp. 139-171)

    To the surprise of many, the most lasting transformation of American society in the 1960s and 1970s involved not race, or a new politics, but the attitudes, expectations, and life chances of American women. That, too, was to be partly dissipated in sectarian quarrels and to stutter into disappointment. But the breadth and depth of the revolution in the way women thought of themselves, and demanded to be thought of by men, did constitute the most significant and lasting of the changes wrought by the troubled years from the early 1960s to the late 1970s.

    All women have been affected...

  12. 7 New South, Old Race
    (pp. 172-202)

    The high hopes of the 1960s for racial equality and harmony were first frustrated, then largely disappointed in the succeeding decades. Individual African Americans were brilliantly successful. The group as a whole was less fortunate. By the middle of the 1970s, the noisy claims of radical black leadership had set off a backlash in large sections of the white majority.

    This white resentment was more a response to the stridency of some of these demands, given prominence by the media, than to any very real shift in the balance of political power toward blacks. It also represented a rejection of...

  13. 8 New Society
    (pp. 203-248)

    The great historian Richard Hofstadter once said that the turmoil and anguish of the Progressive Era in the early twentieth century could be explained by the fact that the United States was born in the country and had moved to the city.¹ Many of the puzzlements and the frustrations of latetwentieth-century America may be put down to the fact that the United States has now moved out to the suburbs, a type of settlement where great material comfort is often purchased at the cost of loneliness, isolation, and a sense of alienation.

    We have looked in some detail at the...

  14. 9 New World
    (pp. 249-287)

    The past quarter of a century has felt like a switchback ride.¹ Americans have seen their country rise from depths of fear and uncertainty in the 1970s to peaks of triumph and self-confidence in the 1990s, only to be shaken by an unfamiliar feeling of vulnerability on September 11, 2001.

    Since then they have recovered their confidence again. American military might has triumphed easily, first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq, though military victory has hardly brought either tranquillity or security.

    For many decades, America has alternately withdrawn from the outside world, and intervened decisively. Subjectively, Americans have felt capable of...

  15. 10 New Century
    (pp. 288-304)

    Equality and inequality make up one of the master themes of American history. The most salient aspect of the American experience in the last quarter of the twentieth century, the startling growth of financial and social inequality, was at the same time historically the most uncharacteristic. In 1839 Alexis de Tocqueville began his classic,Democracy in America,with a famous sentence: “Amongst the novel objects that attracted my attention during my stay in the United States, nothing struck me more forcibly than the general equality of condition among the people.”¹

    Ever since then, Americans have been rightly proud of the...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 305-348)
  17. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 349-360)
  18. Index
    (pp. 361-380)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 381-381)