The 1970s Lifestyles and Social Trends: Overview

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The 1970s Lifestyles and Social Trends: Overview

The decade of the 1970s was in many ways a continuation of the late 1960s with respect to social trends. The activists of the 1960s crusaded for social justice in the 1970s, gaining new freedoms for women, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, homosexuals, the elderly, and other ethnic and minority groups.

Of all the movements, women's liberation remained the most controversial and far-reaching. In the 1970s, women's groups tried to create a more open and nurturing society. To achieve this, they demanded and won access to male-dominated business and universities. Woman also made inroads into politics at the local, state, and national levels. They became doctors, lawyers, teachers, priests, scientists, writers, plumbers, dock workers, pilots, stockbrokers, and sports heroes. By breaking down employment barriers and expanding opportunities, women transformed the character of the American family.

Women's liberation and other social-justice movements became the focus of heated opposition. Conservatives were uncomfortable with the changing American society of the 1970s, especially those changes initiated by the youth counterculture of the 1960s. They believed these changes caused social problems such as a rise in the crime rate, a greater number of poor people, a less motivated work force, and a decline in moral values.

Trying to swing the social pendulum back from the far left, conservatives were joined by former liberal Democrats, a group that became known as neoconservatives. These "new" conservatives, while retaining their liberal views on certain matters, were disturbed by certain social reforms of the 1960s, which they believed went too far. These groups together called for a return to what they called cultural traditionalism.

Joining conservatives and neoconservatives in their fight against social change in America were various religious groups, which began to wield significant political power. With three recessions, double-digit inflation, and double-digit unemployment, the 1970s was a period of economic upheaval. Facing an uncertain future, many Americans were drawn to the stability of traditional values and fundamentalist Christian teachings.

Other Americans turned away from the problems of society, focusing on themselves instead. Seeking to fill their lives with meaning, they experimented with exercise, psychotherapy, health food, and alternative religions. In their search for spiritual fulfillment, many people began to follow the teachings of self-anointed prophets and spiritual gurus. Although some of these spiritual leaders were legitimate, others were unethical con men, using their followers' financial contributions to fund a lavish personal lifestyle. A few were dangerous madmen, leading their unsuspecting believers to their death.

Almost all aspects of American society in the 1970s were marked by a restlessness and a questioning of traditional authority. From public protest movements to personal fashion, people sought a means of self-expression. Breaking traditional fashion rules, women and men experimented with how they looked: They combined separates rather than wearing suits, drew influences from other cultures and time periods, wore pants or dresses, threw away ties and jackets, and walked around in athletic wear. Throughout the decade, people dressed however they wanted, and what they wanted most was comfort and a unique style.

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The 1970s Lifestyles and Social Trends: Overview

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The 1970s Lifestyles and Social Trends: Overview