The United States Since 1945
By H. W. Brands
Penguin Press HC, The, Hardcover, 9781594202629, 432pp.
Publication Date: June 10, 2010
List Price: $32.95*
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For a brief, bright moment in 1945, America stood at its apex, looking back on victory not only against the Axis powers but against the Great Depression, and looking ahead to seemingly limitless power and promise. What we've done with that power and promise over the past six decades is a vitally important and fascinating topic that has rarely been tackled in one volume, and never by a historian of H. W. Brands's stature.
As "American Dreams" opens, Brands shows us a country dramatically different from our own-more unequal in social terms but more equal economically, more religious and rural but also more liberal and more wholeheartedly engaged with the rest of the world. As he traces the changes we have gone through as a nation, he reveals the great themes and dreams that have driven America-the rising focus on individual rights and pleasures, the growing distance between our global goals and those of the rest of the world, and the inexorable dissolution of a shared sense of what it means to be American. In Brands's adroit hands, these trends unfold through a character-driven narrative that sheds brilliant light on the obvious highs and lows-from Watergate to the Berlin Wall, from Apollo 11 to 9/11, from My Lai to shock and awe. But he also chronicles the surprising impact of less celebrated events and trends. Through his eyes, we realize the sweeping significance of the immigration reforms of the 1960s, which gradually transformed American society. We come to grasp the vast impact of abandoning the gold standard in 1971, which enabled both globalization and the current financial crisis. We ponder the unnerving results of CNN's debut in 1979, which sped up the news cycle and permanently changed our foreign policy by putting its effects live on our TV screens.
Blending political and cultural history with his keen sense of the spirit of the times, Brands captures the national experience through the last six decades and reveals the still-unfolding legacy of dreams born out of a global cataclysm.