The Day Before Yesterday: Reconsidering America's Past, Rediscovering the Present

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9780684870458: The Day Before Yesterday: Reconsidering America's Past, Rediscovering the Present

In The Day Before Yesterday, acclaimed journalist Michael Elliott says, "Americans whine. They live in the most prosperous society the world has ever seen. They have a greater level of creature comfort than any nation has ever known before. They enjoy great personal freedom, and their government is systematically constrained in the ways in which it can intervene in their private lives. And yet they are convinced that their life is miserable." But Elliott tells us the "decline" we mourn is measured against the false standard of the uniquely prosperous years after World War II. The country's severe problems fall into better perspective when we measure them against our longer history. We then see that we have been a nation of problem solvers and can be again.

Americans have assumed for fifty years that the years after World War II were normal, and that any deviation from that standard is alarming. In fact, the boom period following World War II, the Golden Age, was a historical aberration. Although it had its roots in the American past, much of the prosperity came out of the country's unique position in the world of 1945. Of all the nations on the planet, only the United States emerged unscathed from the three decades of war and revolution that had crippled all the other great industrial powers -- Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and Japan. As a result, in 1945 the U.S. reigned supreme.

Then, between the assassination of JFK and the end of the Cold War in 1989, all the factors that had contributed so much to America's self-image went into reverse. American politics went through a period of murderous instability; the federal government was delegitimized; great divisions grew among races, regions, and classes; a wave of immigration transformed the country's ethnic makeup; and the economy slowed down.

Now the major debate among politicians is how to fix America's decline. Elliott puts that debate in perspective by showing that we're in a natural cycle, not an absolute decline, and reminds us that we won't find the solutions in the shiny model of the Golden Age. Those circumstances will never be repeated. Instead, by looking back to the whole of American history, especially to the period before 1914, Elliott offers explanations and some hopeful answers for our current problems. Then, as now, America was a society of immigrants, messy, ragged at the edges, transfixed by cultural wars and suffering serious social cleavages. America was also home to unprecedented pioneering spirit and extraordinary resourcefulness. America today is still characterized by the same sense of community and entrepreneurial vision that enabled us to overcome our problems a hundred years and more ago and become the most powerful and prosperous nation in the world.

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Review:

Some people remember the fifties and early sixties as America's "Golden Age," the proverbial good old days, when everyone had a job, social conflict was well-contained, and the country was united by a vision of steady economic progress and new appliances (air-conditioners!). That was yesterday. British transplant Elliott, editor of Newsweek International, disagrees with those who think the country has gone to hell ever since. He argues, entertainingly, that if Americans look back to the day before yesterday, to the days before World War I, they will see a picture of America "very much like the country they now inhabit": a country roiling with immigration and cultural conflict. America is not in decline, he argues; it's just reverting to normal.

From Kirkus Reviews:

The postwar golden age of America, to which conservatives fondly advert, is a historical anomaly that will not likely be repeated: So writes Newsweek International editor Elliott in this well-conceived, thoughtful exercise in political punditry. A Briton, Elliott brings a helpful distance to his analysis of lost glories and current crises. ``Americans whine,'' he says bluntly. ``They live in the most prosperous society that the world has ever seen. . . . And yet they are convinced that their life is miserable.'' We are miserable, he suggests, because we pine for an unrecoverable time, a blip on the screen of history's radar, an era we celebrate for its economic growth, small-town virtues, security, and cultural homogeneity. That moment, which ran from 1945 to 1970, was, Elliott writes, ``a massive freak,'' a false yardstick that fuels a nostalgia verging on heartache. Attuned to such matters, Elliott explores the myth of America as a classless society of equal opportunity, looking at cities like Detroit to show that a huge gulf divides American society: ``For mindboggling contrasts in the quality of life, the Mexican-American border is rivaled by the line that separates the horror of Detroit from a suburb like Grosse Pointe, with its faux chƒteaus and country clubs.'' Yet, Elliott continues, this gulf is an old one, bridged only for a short time by the boom that accompanied the first half of the Cold War--a conflict that is misnamed, Elliott insists, inasmuch as more than 100,000 Americans died on battlefields between 1945 and 1989. The costs of that war and the resulting inflation, he writes persuasively, effectively destroyed the economic boom. Strolling in a leisurely fashion through postwar history, Elliott shows that the reigning bitter class divisions and current furor over international trade and immigration are, in fact, normal conditions in our history. While he stops short of telling Americans to cheer up and shape up, Elliott effectively shows that yearning for our past is unlikely to improve our future. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 1999. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. In The Day Before Yesterday, acclaimed journalist Michael Elliott says, Americans whine. They live in the most prosperous society the world has ever seen. They have a greater level of creature comfort than any nation has ever known before. They enjoy great personal freedom, and their government is systematically constrained in the ways in which it can intervene in their private lives. And yet they are convinced that their life is miserable. But Elliott tells us the decline we mourn is measured against the false standard of the uniquely prosperous years after World War II. The country s severe problems fall into better perspective when we measure them against our longer history. We then see that we have been a nation of problem solvers and can be again. Americans have assumed for fifty years that the years after World War II were normal, and that any deviation from that standard is alarming. In fact, the boom period following World War II, the Golden Age, was a historical aberration. Although it had its roots in the American past, much of the prosperity came out of the country s unique position in the world of 1945. Of all the nations on the planet, only the United States emerged unscathed from the three decades of war and revolution that had crippled all the other great industrial powers -- Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and Japan. As a result, in 1945 the U.S. reigned supreme. Then, between the assassination of JFK and the end of the Cold War in 1989, all the factors that had contributed so much to America s self-image went into reverse. American politics went through a period of murderous instability; the federal government was delegitimized; great divisions grew among races, regions, and classes; a wave of immigration transformed the country s ethnic makeup; and the economy slowed down. Now the major debate among politicians is how to fix America s decline. Elliott puts that debate in perspective by showing that we re in a natural cycle, not an absolute decline, and reminds us that we won t find the solutions in the shiny model of the Golden Age. Those circumstances will never be repeated. Instead, by looking back to the whole of American history, especially to the period before 1914, Elliott offers explanations and some hopeful answers for our current problems. Then, as now, America was a society of immigrants, messy, ragged at the edges, transfixed by cultural wars and suffering serious social cleavages. America was also home to unprecedented pioneering spirit and extraordinary resourcefulness. America today is still characterized by the same sense of community and entrepreneurial vision that enabled us to overcome our problems a hundred years and more ago and become the most powerful and prosperous nation in the world. Bookseller Inventory # AAV9780684870458

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 1999. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.In The Day Before Yesterday, acclaimed journalist Michael Elliott says, Americans whine. They live in the most prosperous society the world has ever seen. They have a greater level of creature comfort than any nation has ever known before. They enjoy great personal freedom, and their government is systematically constrained in the ways in which it can intervene in their private lives. And yet they are convinced that their life is miserable. But Elliott tells us the decline we mourn is measured against the false standard of the uniquely prosperous years after World War II. The country s severe problems fall into better perspective when we measure them against our longer history. We then see that we have been a nation of problem solvers and can be again. Americans have assumed for fifty years that the years after World War II were normal, and that any deviation from that standard is alarming. In fact, the boom period following World War II, the Golden Age, was a historical aberration. Although it had its roots in the American past, much of the prosperity came out of the country s unique position in the world of 1945. Of all the nations on the planet, only the United States emerged unscathed from the three decades of war and revolution that had crippled all the other great industrial powers -- Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and Japan. As a result, in 1945 the U.S. reigned supreme. Then, between the assassination of JFK and the end of the Cold War in 1989, all the factors that had contributed so much to America s self-image went into reverse. American politics went through a period of murderous instability; the federal government was delegitimized; great divisions grew among races, regions, and classes; a wave of immigration transformed the country s ethnic makeup; and the economy slowed down. Now the major debate among politicians is how to fix America s decline. Elliott puts that debate in perspective by showing that we re in a natural cycle, not an absolute decline, and reminds us that we won t find the solutions in the shiny model of the Golden Age. Those circumstances will never be repeated. Instead, by looking back to the whole of American history, especially to the period before 1914, Elliott offers explanations and some hopeful answers for our current problems. Then, as now, America was a society of immigrants, messy, ragged at the edges, transfixed by cultural wars and suffering serious social cleavages. America was also home to unprecedented pioneering spirit and extraordinary resourcefulness. America today is still characterized by the same sense of community and entrepreneurial vision that enabled us to overcome our problems a hundred years and more ago and become the most powerful and prosperous nation in the world. Bookseller Inventory # AAV9780684870458

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