The Seventies (long, short, and in between) has emerged in recent years as an object of intensive scholarly investigation. Many historians of the twentieth century now see that decade as a watershed. It is the focus of books such as Jefferson Cowie’s Stayin’ Alive and Judith Stein’s Pivotal Decade. It is the start of Dan Rodgers’s Age of Fracture. It’s the fulcrum of Robert Self’s All in the Family. It is the star of Rick Perlstein’s tomes Nixonland and Invisible Bridge. I’m one of two members of my department currently writing a book on the decade. But what’s the place of the Seventies in U.S. intellectual history? What works from the Seventies have made it into the USIH canon? What works should?
Two things have me thinking about these questions this week. First, I finished the second volume of David Hollinger and Charles Capper’s American Intellectual Tradition — which is, among other things, an exercise in canonization — in my lower-division Honors intellectual history course. For the first time, I used the 7th edition of this volume, which was published last year. And the Seventies as a distinctive moment in American thought are largely absent from the volume. The book contains fifteen texts written in the 1960s, but only two written in the 1970s. And these two – a selection from Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) and Nancy Chodorow’s “Gender, relation, and Difference in Psychoanalytic Perspective” (1979) are from the end of the decade. And both point toward the five following works from the 1980s, which are focused, broadly speaking, on questions of identity and postmodernism. The last of the Sixties readings, Noam Chomsky’s “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” was published in 1967. So the book skips eleven years, the longest gap in time between any two readings in the volume.