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Challenges for The 1970s

November 19, 1969

Report Outline
Unresolved Problems of Coming Decade
The Sixties: a Decade of Rising Dissent
Shape of Action Needed in Years Ahead
Special Focus

Unresolved Problems of Coming Decade

America enters the 1970s groping for new directions but still bearing the burdens of the previous decade. Trouble at home and abroad in the Sixties shattered many of the certainties with which that decade began. No period since the Depression Thirties has so undermined the country's self-confidence or been so hard on prophets and problem-solvers. “The Sixties posed problems, but the solutions to them were left up in the air,” Michael Harrington has observed. “The Seventies will deal with them, or else.”

Americans hear almost daily that time is running out—to save the country from racial strife and the passions aroused by an unpopular war in Viet Nam; to save the cities from crime and decay; to save the world from pollution and overpopulation; to save themselves from the dehumanizing ills of an advancing age of technology. Yet they see prosperity all around them and share in it more than ever before. “We have heard nothing but despair and seen nothing but progress,” Thomas Babington Macaulay, British historian, wrote in the 19th century. His words apply today but with a difference: “Progress” in 1969 has often meant a jetport which its neighbors did not want or an unneeded freeway through a park they tried to save. The most spectacular engineering triumph of the 1960s, and perhaps of all time, the manned moon landing, had its detractors. They asked why couldn't the billions spent on the space race have been applied to the social problems on earth. The 1960s, in short, were a time of change, dissent and upheaval.

National Social Ills in Prosperous America

Among the certainties of the year 1960, when John F. Kennedy vowed to get America “moving again,” was that the ideology of class struggle had been muted. There was money enough for everyone, according to the neo-Keynesian theories of Kennedy's economic advisers, without taking any away from the rich. The key to their New Economics was to stimulate full production and full employment through planned deficits in the federal budget and through tax cuts. The Kennedy goal of reducing the unemployment rate to 3 per cent was never quite reached in the 1960s, but the spendable income of the average American rose by one-third even after allowing for higher taxes and inflation.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Protest Movements and Counter Culture
Aug. 28, 1998  Student Activism
Jan. 04, 1991  The Growing Influence of Boycotts
Aug. 22, 1986  Student Politics 1980s Style
May 13, 1983  Christian Peace Movement
Apr. 08, 1970  Politics and Youth
Nov. 19, 1969  Challenges for The 1970s
Aug. 21, 1968  Reorganization of the Universities
Jan. 10, 1968  Universities and the Government
Jan. 03, 1968  Peace Movements in American Politics
Oct. 12, 1966  Alienated Youth
Feb. 24, 1966  Protest Movements in Time of War
May 19, 1965  Campus Unrest
Aug. 14, 1963  Mass Demonstrations
Dec. 11, 1957  Student Movements
Aug. 17, 1939  Conscientious Objection to War
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Historic Preservation
Protest Movements
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