Spotlight | Center for International Studies 

Do we live in a counterrevolutionary age? 

That ’70s show

In a new book, journalist and MIT fellow Christian Caryl recounts the epoch-shaping political, religious and economic upheavals launched in the year 1979.

In some circles, the year 1979 might be best remembered for disco balls, loud polyester suits and other cultural detritus. To Christian Caryl, 1979 means something else entirely: a foundational moment for our current geopolitical order.

Indeed Caryl, a journalist and a senior fellow at MIT’s Center for International Studies, has now written a book illuminating the dramatic long-term changes spawned at the tail end of “The ‘Me’ Decade.” 

In Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century, published by Basic Books, Caryl takes an in-depth look at five consequential events that have had lasting effects: both the revolution in Iran and the armed rebellion in Afghanistan, which gave life to political Islam; Margaret Thatcher’s electoral triumph in Great Britain, which helped steer Western politics rightward; the election of Pope John Paul II (in late 1978), which spurred opposition to communism in Europe; and the accession to power of China’s Deng Xiaoping, which helped open communism, or one version of it, to industrial growth.  

Full story by Peter Dizikes, MIT News



Collage by Christine Daniloff, MIT