Strange Rebels by Christian Caryl
1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century

76%

8 Critic Reviews

Few had expected to live in such an unusual moment; Strange Rebels, superbly written, brings a tumultuous single year to life in all its proper significance.
-Guardian

Synopsis

Few moments in history have seen as many seismic transformations as 1979. That single year marked the emergence of revolutionary Islam as a political force on the world stage, the beginning of market revolutions in China and Britain that would fuel globalization and radically alter the international economy, and the first stirrings of the resistance movements in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan that ultimately led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. More than any other year in the latter half of the twentieth century, 1979 heralded the economic, political, and religious realities that define the twenty-first.

In Strange Rebels, veteran journalist Christian Caryl shows how the world we live in today—and the problems that plague it—began to take shape in this pivotal year. 1979, he explains, saw a series of counterrevolutions against the progressive consensus that had dominated the postwar era. The year’s epic upheavals embodied a startling conservative challenge to communist and socialist systems around the globe, fundamentally transforming politics and economics worldwide. In China, 1979 marked the start of sweeping market-oriented reforms that have made the country the economic powerhouse it is today. 1979 was also the year that Pope John Paul II traveled to Poland, confronting communism in Eastern Europe by reigniting its people’s suppressed Catholic faith. In Iran, meanwhile, an Islamic Revolution transformed the nation into a theocracy almost overnight, overthrowing the Shah’s modernizing monarchy. Further west, Margaret Thatcher became prime minister of Britain, returning it to a purer form of free-market capitalism and opening the way for Ronald Reagan to do the same in the US. And in Afghanistan, a Soviet invasion fueled an Islamic holy war with global consequences; the Afghan mujahedin presaged the rise of al-Qaeda and served as a key factor—along with John Paul’s journey to Poland—in the fall of communism.

Weaving the story of each of these counterrevolutions into a brisk, gripping narrative, Strange Rebels is a groundbreaking account of how these far-flung events and disparate actors and movements gave birth to our modern age.
 

About Christian Caryl

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Christian Caryl, a Senior Fellow at the Legatum Institute, is also a contributing editor at Foreign Policy, a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, and a former Newsweek correspondent. A senior fellow of the Center for International Studies at MIT and winner of an Overseas Press Club Award, Caryl lives in Bethesda, Maryland.
 
Published April 30, 2013 by Basic Books. 432 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Strange Rebels
All: 8 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 2

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Isaac Chotiner on Jun 21 2013

“Strange Rebels” is a well-written and thorough work of history whose elements don’t really cohere...The clearest conclusion of this book is that 1979 happened, by chance, to be a monumental year.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Jonathan Derbyshire on Jul 25 2013

For what he has succeeded in doing is to show that 1979 marked the birth of the multipolar world we inhabit today, in which new powers, China included, use global markets to advance their interests and in which religion, far from disappearing as a political force, has reasserted itself with a vengeance. And for doing that, he is to be applauded.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Ian Thomson on Jul 06 2013

Few had expected to live in such an unusual moment; Strange Rebels, superbly written, brings a tumultuous single year to life in all its proper significance.

Read Full Review of Strange Rebels: 1979 and the ... | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Ian Thomson on Jul 06 2013

Few had expected to live in such an unusual moment; Strange Rebels, superbly written, brings a tumultuous single year to life in all its proper significance.

Read Full Review of Strange Rebels: 1979 and the ... | See more reviews from Guardian

Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by Natalie Bennett on Sep 01 2013

I’m not sure there’s many lessons here about what comes next for us — the gap of more than three decades is too great — but that change tends to happen in big leaps, rather than gradual evolution, is one lesson to be taken here.

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WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by Jonathan Karl on May 03 2013

"Strange Rebels," though engagingly written, is occasionally repetitive, and Mr. Caryl's effort to craft a coherent narrative out of a series of disparate and chaotic events is at times a bit forced.

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Kirkus

Good
on Feb 25 2013

An astute assessment of the efforts of a group of historic newsmakers.

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The Economist

Good
on Apr 13 2013

Mr Caryl tells this story with great skill. He moves effortlessly from one scene to another in this tumultuous year...

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