Bad Old Days: The Myth of the 1950s by Alan J. Levine

By Alan J. Levine

For many, specially these at the political left, the Nineteen Fifties are the "bad previous days." the commonly accredited checklist of what was once allegedly unsuitable with that decade contains the chilly warfare, McCarthyism, racial segregation, self-satisfied prosperity, and empty materialism. the flaws are coupled with ignoring poverty and different social difficulties, complacency, conformity, the suppression of ladies, and puritanical attitudes towards intercourse. In all, the normal knowledge sees the last decade as bland and uninteresting, with typically accredited humans paralyzed with worry of conflict, Communism, or McCarthyism, or all three.

Alan J. Levine, indicates that the generally accredited photograph of the Fifties is defective. It distorts a severe interval of yank background. That distortion appears dictated through an ideological schedule, together with an emotional obsession with a sentimentalized model of the Sixties that during flip calls for preserving a specific, deceptive view of the post-World struggle II period that preceded it. Levine argues severe view of the Nineteen Fifties is embedded in an unwillingness to realistically assessment the evolution of yankee society because the Nineteen Sixties. Many--and not just liberals and people additional to the left--desperately wish to stay away from seeing, or admitting, simply how badly many stuff have long past within the usa because the 1960s.

Bad previous Days indicates that the normal view of the Nineteen Fifties stands against the truth of the last decade. faraway from being the dismal prelude to an excellent interval of growth, the postwar interval of the past due Forties and Fifties used to be an period of exceptional development and prosperity. this period used to be then derailed through catastrophic political and monetary misjudgments and a drastic shift within the nationwide ethos that contributed not anything, or below not anything, to a greater world.

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Much is often made of the missile gap, the most famous overestimate —the projection, from 1957 to 1961, that The Post-World War II Era 25 there would be a “missile gap” from 1960 to 1964 in which the Soviets would have a vastly greater ICBM force than the Untied States. This has often been falsely attributed either to the machinations of the “militaryindustrial complex,” or alternatively and anachronistically, to the political schemes of John F. Kennedy. In fact, although exploited by Kennedy and others politically, it originated as a perfectly honest intelligence estimate in 1957; the Eisenhower administration itself expected that there would be a missile gap up to 1960.

The next step was to treat practically any opposition to Communism as a manifestation of McCarthyism—a stance strongly advocated by Ellen Schrecker, the best-known contemporary academic authority on McCarthyism. This tendency reached an extreme in David Caute’s well-known book, The Great Fear, and ended in a curious inversion. To Caute and similar people, the real villains were the Truman administration and antiCommunists in general; to them, McCarthy was not so bad, because his antics actually helped discredit the anti-Communist side.

A bizarre feature of the program, which was badly managed, was that it tried to cover the whole government instead of those agencies that were really critical. In 1948, the government prosecuted the Politburo of the American Communist Party for violating the Smith Act by advocating the overthrow of the government by force. (The Supreme Court, in its whimsical way, overturned the Smith Act in 1957, although it had reaffirmed its constitutionality just six years earlier. ) All this should have neutralized the issue of domestic Communism.

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