Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Alan Petigny

From a Q & A with Alan Petigny, author of The Permissive Society: America, 1941–1965:

Question: Dr. Petigny, most people see the U.S. taking a strong, clear turn to the left during the 1960s, but you don't agree. Why?

Petigny: When you say "turn to the left," it is important to differentiate between politics and societal values. Too often we collapse the two.

Question: What do you mean?

Petigny: Well, on the political level there is no question that America moved to the left during the sixties. The burgeoning Civil Rights Movement, the anti-war movement, and the emergent Women's Liberation, environmental and Gay Rights movements at the close of the decade illustrate this shift.

But outside the world of politics, on a personal and social level, the liberalizing process had already begun during the 1950s.

Question: Are you referring to Elvis, the beatniks, and rock 'n roll? And if so, isn't that already a given?

Petigny: Those kinds of examples move my point. I don't want to pick on you, but when journalists and academics talk about "change" during the 1950s, the two items they inevitably point to are rock 'n roll and the beatniks. But I would maintain that the sheer magnitude of change that was unfolding during the 1950s was far more sweeping than Elvis shaking his hips.

Question: You seem to be trivializing the impact of rock 'n roll.

Petigny: That's...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue