The Rise and Fall of American Liberalism: U.S. History, 1960-1980

This course will focus on a pivotal period of American history: 1960-1980.  It was a time of tremendous change beginning with President Kennedy’s declaration that “we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty” around the world, and ending with the national disgrace of South Vietnam’s collapse and the Iran hostage crisis.  It began with high hopes of a nation that seemed so endlessly prosperous that it planned a “Great Society” and ended with a crippling gasoline shortage, rising unemployment, and skyrocketing inflation.  If the 1960s was the culmination of liberalism that had emerged in the New Deal era, then the 1970s would pave the way for the conservative revolution of the 1980s and beyond.  We will examine this remarkable transformation by exploring such topics as the Civil Rights Movement and many of the resulting movements for change (the Student Movement, the Counterculture, the Chicano Movement, Red Power, Black Power, the Women’s movement, Gay Power, etc.), the Vietnam War and its implications for American society, the Watergate crisis, the rise of Christian fundamentalism and alternative religious movements in the 1970s, the emergence of musical forms such as Disco and Punk rock and what they say about 1970s culture, and the national “crisis of confidence” which President Carter claimed plagued the nation by the end of the 1970s.