A Washington Post and Strategy+Business Book of the Year.
Stagnant wages. Feeble growth figures. An angry, disillusioned public. The early 1970s witnessed the arrival of the problems that define the twenty-first century.
In An Extraordinary Time, Marc Levinson investigates how the oil crisis of the 1970s marked a radical turning point in global economics: and paved the way for the political and financial troubles of the present. Tracing the remarkable transformation of the global economy in the years after World War II, Levinson explores how decades of spectacular economic growth ended almost overnight – giving way to an era of uncertainty and political extremism that we are still grappling with. Above all, Levinson shows that we must understand the economic disaster of the 1970s if we want to overcome the problems we face today. By focusing on a pivotal but often overlooked moment in the twentieth century, An Extraordinary Time offers a crucial and timely reappraisal of our age.
‘A smoothly written account of the US and the world economy during the 1970s.’ Wall Street Journal
‘A valuable antidote to all passionately held economic ideologies.’ Times Literary Supplement
‘Provocative . . . Levinson reminds us how mesmerising the post-war boom really was.’ Washington Post
‘Lucid, well-paced, and entwined with vivid sketches of economists, central bankers, and politicians.’ Publishers Weekly
In the 1970s the global economy went to hell and stayed there because of overt shocks and deep transformations, argues former Economist editor Levinson (The Box) in this probing history. He pinpoints 1973 as the turning point when the Arab oil embargo, the collapse of the Bretton Woods exchange-rate mechanism, and stagflation ushered in slow growth, instability, economic insecurity, and debt crises after the strong economic growth and soaring living standards of the preceding post-war years. He tours three decades of responses to the permanent slump, including Keynesian stimulus and price controls on the liberal side as well as the conservative agenda of free markets, deregulation, privatization, and government austerity. He argues that neither program succeeded because of a permanent and intractable slowing of productivity growth, grimly concluding that economic torpor is the new normal and that the dynamic post-war prosperity will never return. Levinson's account of this vexed era is lucid, well-paced, and entwined with vivid sketches of economists, central bankers, and politicians who failed to restore the pre-1973 good times. He also succeeds at translating complex economic issues into understandable terms for lay readers. Levinson's admirably evenhanded treatment of recent economic history steers clear of dogmas on both left and right to explore knottier truths.