The supposedly placid past, once probed and explored, usually turns out to have been as jarring as the disruptive present. Something is always assaulting our sense of security and stability. We Americans say we like change, but we want it without troubling side effects. This is a mirage.
Gordon has written the best one- volume economic history of the United States in a long time and, perhaps, ever. Highly readable and fact-filled, it's basically optimistic. Gordon argues that America's success is rooted in a society that rewards people for being ambitious, taking risks and trying new ideas.
A discomfort with the present time is characteristic of fin de siecle civilizations. The cultural excesses also associated with fin de siecle times are perhaps engendered by a feeling of fatalism & changing mores. The late 19th century saw great revolutions in society. The changes of the late 20th and early 21st century may not seem as significant, but it cannot be denied that there an scent of change in the air, of social comment and barely suppressed discontent. Whether it is the conservative desire to turn back the clock to the days of Mckinley or the progressive call to arms via Mosh, the Age of Enlightenment may be giving way to a new age. The nature of the social evolution at stake may not be clear for some time to come. The revolution already engendered by globalization means that it will transform the entire world like few other human transformations have done.
Also Recommended: Samuelson's own "The Good Life and Its Discontents : The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement"