Work and Dignity   /   Fall 2012   /    Book Reviews

Jefferson Cowie’s

Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class

Howard Brick

Suddenly the 1970s has become the decade that inaugurated our own times, the new “crucial decade” (as Eric Goldman in 1956 called the ten years after the  end  of  World  War  II). In a 2010 Nation essay, Rick Perlstein surveyed a torrent of new histories of the American 1970s and highlighted Stayin’ Alive as the most compelling, a judgment confirmed by the book winning a host of professional prizes. Stayin’ Alive rightly stands as a bold venture, not only for its attempt to synthesize the distinct registers of political history, labor history, and the history  of  popular  culture, but also for the panache with which Cowie virtually writes an epitaph for his own scholarly specialty. If we take the claim literally that the 1970s marked “the last days of the working class,” there will be nothing in U.S. experience after 1980 for future labor historians to write about.

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