Decade of Nightmares by Philip Jenkins
The End of the Sixties and the Making of Eighties America

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Why did the youthful optimism and openness of the sixties give way to Ronald Reagan and the spirit of conservative reaction--a spirit that remains ascendant today?
Drawing on a wide array of sources--including tabloid journalism, popular fiction, movies, and television shows--Philip Jenkins argues that a remarkable confluence of panics, scares, and a few genuine threats created a climate of fear that led to the conservative reaction. He identifies 1975 to 1986 as the watershed years. During this time, he says, there was a sharp increase in perceived threats to our security at home and abroad. At home, America seemed to be threatened by monstrous criminals--serial killers, child abusers, Satanic cults, and predatory drug dealers, to name just a few. On the international scene, we were confronted by the Soviet Union and its evil empire, by OPEC with its stranglehold on global oil, by the Ayatollahs who made hostages of our diplomats in Iran. Increasingly, these dangers began to be described in terms of moral evil. Rejecting the radicalism of the '60s, which many saw as the source of the crisis, Americans adopted a more pessimistic interpretation of human behavior, which harked back to much older themes in American culture. This simpler but darker vision ultimately brought us Ronald Reagan and the ascendancy of the political Right, which more than two decades later shows no sign of loosening its grip.
Writing in his usual crisp and witty prose, Jenkins offers a truly original and persuasive account of a period that continues to fascinate the American public. It is bound to captivate anyone who lived through this period, as well as all those who want to understand the forces that transformed--and continue to define--the American political landscape.

About Philip Jenkins

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Philip Jenkins is Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University. He has published widely on contemporary religious themes, including New Age and esoteric movements, and is the author of Dream Catchers: How Mainstream America Discovered Native Spirituality , Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American History, and the highly acclaimed The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity.
Published March 15, 2006 by Oxford University Press. 348 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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The New York Times

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He argues that economic woes, gas shortages, "steeply rising rates of violent crime" and sensationalistic reports of serial murders and cult atrocities contributed to a "sense of pervasive national malaise, decadence and social failure," which in turn created a reservoir of fear and anxiety that...

Mar 21 2006 | Read Full Review of Decade of Nightmares: The End...

The New York Times

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But while the right may represent a backlash against the beliefs and mores of the 60's, Jenkins maintains, it has inherited the very apocalyptic mood that pervaded the waning years of the Age of Aquarius.

Apr 23 2006 | Read Full Review of Decade of Nightmares: The End...

Publishers Weekly

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In a timely account, Jenkins (Dream Catchers ) argues that between 1975 and 1986, Americans reacted against '60s radicalism, setting the stage for conservatism's triumphs in the 1980s.

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