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[Excerpt] What many pegged as the promise of a working-class revival in the early 1970s turned out to be more of a swan song by decade's end. The fragmented nature of the labor protests—by organization, industry, race, geography, and gender—failed to coalesce into a lasting national presence. The mainstream labor movement failed in its major political initiatives. Market orthodoxy eclipsed all alternatives, and promising organizing drives ended in failure. Deindustrialization decimated the power of the old industrial heartland. The vague class alliances of the major parties began to lose their distinction. As hip-hop writer Nelson George put it, "The first story is full of optimism and exalted ideas about humanity's ability to change through political action and moral argument. The next story, the plot we're living right now, is defined by cynicism, sarcasm, and self-involvement raised to art. The turning point was the early seventies." By 1981, Time magazine predicted little more than "Gloom and Doom for Workers."


Suggested Citation
Cowie, J. (2010). Introduction [Electronic version]. In Stayin alive: The 1970s and the last days of the working class. New York: The New Press.