The 1970s began where the 1960s left off: restless, critical of the status quo, questioning traditional authority and social hierarchies, and flamboyantly expressive. The social upheavals that swept the country in the mid 1960s—civil rights, women's liberation, the environmental movement, gay liberation—continued to shape the 1970s. But the 1970s were not merely a repeat of the 1960s. Political protest movements lost steam and turned instead to a focus on lifestyles and consumption. America's turn inward bequeathed to the era the sardonic title "the me decade."
The focus on lifestyles reflected the desire to escape from the stream of bad news flowing from the television and the newspaper. The Vietnam War, Watergate, the oil crisis, and the recession cast doubts on the fundamental beliefs of most Americans—that American democracy worked, that hard work would lead to economic security, and that America was a benign influence on the international stage. Private life seemed to be the only refuge from the anxieties of a world in flux. "Doing your own thing," the battle cry of the 1960s, became an alternative to participating in public life.
The slogan "do your own thing" elevated self-expression over traditionalism in every avenue of life. In the...
(The entire section is 948 words.)
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