This introductory chapter reveals that the years between 1973 and 1979 witnessed a critical transition that made American society simultaneously more equal and less equal, and American culture still more individualistic, than they had been before. Like a line of thunderstorms rolling across the prairie, a series of jolts hit Americans in 1973, leaving them uncertain of what new weather would come along behind this powerful storm front. U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam; the cover-up of the Watergate scandal unraveled amid calls for the president's impeachment; the oil embargo by Arab members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) began, while Nixon unplugged the dollar from the gold standard and average real wages (adjusted for inflation) declined for the first time in forty years.
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