The Politically Incorrect Guide To The Sixties, by Jonathan Leaf
As one of a large collection of Politically Incorrect Guides  that I am in the process of reading and reviewing, I was struck by the way that this book is deeply relevant to looking at culture as a whole. Regardless of what decade that one lives in, there is a large collection of culture that is viewed as being significant because of the way that it serves the aims of cultural elites, and a great deal of culture in the time  that is overlooked because it does not fit in with cultural narratives. The soundtrack pop and musicals and country music, for example, of the sixties and other generations tends to be ignored because such music is viewed as being reactionary and not with the spirit of the times. Thus the deeply conservative music and culture that tends to be the most popular in every age is neglected by those who want to promote a view of cultural progress from tradition to oblivion. In the midst of a great deal of misguided and inaccurate rhetoric about the sixties, the author rather understandably wishes to set the record straight in this book, and he does.
This book of slightly more than 200 pages is divided into thirteen chapters that explore the seedy as well as wholesome and conservative aspects of the sixties that are often not given full coverage by those who write about the decade. The author begins with four chapters about the social sixties (I), including some pointed comments about student activists (1), the advent and legacy of feminism (2), the ambiguities of the civil rights movement (3), and some rather harsh comments about the intellectuals of the time (4). After this the author spends four chapters exploring the cultural sixties (II) with a discussion of rock and roll and country and folk and pop music (5), the transitional period of television during the decade (6), the best of sixties fashion (7), and the author’s rather critical views of the rise of NASA and the moon missions (8). The author then finishes with five chapters on the political sixties (III) in which he gives a rather scorching negative view of Earl Warren (9), gives a revisionist view of JFK’s presidency (10), discusses the failures of Johnson’s war on poverty (11), gives as brief view of America’s failure in Vietnam (12), and discusses the counter-counterculture of the rise of American conservatism (13).
It is hard, ultimately, to fully approve of a book like this. The author, for example, appears to desire a big tent coalition of conservatives that includes cultural conservatives as well as more libertarian elements like Ayn Rand, whose views I am quite critical of because of their unabashed selfishness and lack of charity towards others. Likewise, the author is a bit too strident in his anti-intellectualism, although he definitely does a good job at providing some much needed balance and context to what happened in the sixties as well as some much needed criticism of the links between so much of sixties counterculture with Communist attempts at bringing down the United States through decadence and fifth columnists in academia and the media, something that remains a critical area of problems for the United States to this day. This is certainly not the book that most people would expect to read about the 1960’s, but even if it is not a book that one can endorse without reservations, there is still a lot of value in the author’s reflection on what was lasting and what was dated about the culture of the time.
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