Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right

Dominic Sandbrook, Knopf, $30 (496p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4262-3
Inspired by the famous scene in Network in which TV watchers howl their inchoate rage, historian Sandbrook (Eugene McCarthy) offers a shrewd, sparkling politico-cultural history of post-Watergate America. Sandbrook locates the decade's heart in the popular distrust and subsequent resentment of all institutions—governments, corporations, and unions. The individualism that results, Sandbrook argues, resonates with the roots of evangelicalism and develops into the beginnings of right-wing Christian populism. This fertile if not entirely original take on the era offers insightful interpretations of 1970s watersheds, from Jimmy Carter's canny "outsider" presidential campaign to property-tax revolts and battles over school busing and the ERA. Sandbrook sets his chronicle against a panorama of gasoline lines, stagflation, and epochal changes in race relations, women's roles, and sexual mores, woven together with cultural touchstones from Bruce Springsteen to Charlie's Angels. Sandbrook's account of right-wing populism as a mass phenomenon, fed by real grievances over social and economic turmoil and a pervasive sense of decline, largely misses the role of business interests; still, his subtle, well-written narrative of wrathful little guys confronting a faltering establishment illuminates a crucial aspect of a time much like our own. Photos. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/08/2010
Release date: 02/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 426 pages - 978-0-307-59545-4
Paperback - 506 pages - 978-1-4000-7724-3
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