The First New Nation: The United States in Historical States in Historical and Comparative Perspective

By Seymour Martin Lipset | Go to book overview

Introduction to
the Norton
Edition

The First New Nation is a product of the early 1960s. Appearing in 1963, before the assassination of President Kennedy, it obviously did not deal with the sources and consequences of the prolonged series of political disasters and protest reactions which the United States faced from November 22, 1963 on. Those bygone almost bucolic days of the New Frontier, when America saw itself as the prosperous leader of the Free World, now seem like an almost ancient era.

There is little need to reiterate the dismal story of the subsequent decade-and-a-half of Vietnam, a country divided by mass protest, the growth of left- and right-wing extremism, Watergate, exposés of corruption and malfeasance in business and the intelligence agencies, the overthrow of two incumbent presidents, Johnson and Nixon, followed in office by two men perceived by much of the public as weak and inept, and finally during the seventies, serious recession succeeded by a run-away inflation.


Confidence in Institutions

These events, not surprisingly, resulted in a serious decline in confidence in most American institutions, which survey evidence dates as having begun in the late 1960s, leveling out at a much lower figure for the 1970s. 1 In 1965, Robert Lane, a political scientist at Yale University, published two articles in which he reported in some detail various polls

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1
For a review of the evidence on the poll data, see S. M. Lipset and William Schneider, The Evaluation of Basic American Institutions, With Special Reference to Business (New York: Macmillan, forthcoming).

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