Few moments in history have seen as many seismic
transformations as 1979. That one year marked the emergence of revolutionary
Islam as a political force on the world stage, the beginning of market
revolutions in China and Britain that would fuel globalization and radically
alter the international economy, and the first stirrings of the resistance
movements in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan that ultimately led to the collapse
of the Soviet Union. More than any other year in the latter half of the
twentieth century, 1979 heralded the economic, political, and religious
realities that define the twenty-first.
In Strange Rebels, veteran
journalist Christian Caryl shows how the world we live in today—and the
problems that plague it—began to take shape in this pivotal year. 1979 saw a
series of counterrevolutions against the progressive consensus that had
dominated the postwar era. The year’s epic upheavals embodied a startling
conservative challenge to communist and socialist systems around the globe,
fundamentally transforming politics and economics worldwide. In China, 1979
marked the start of sweeping market-oriented reforms that have made the country
the economic powerhouse it is today. 1979 was also the year that Pope John Paul
II traveled to Poland, confronting communism in Eastern Europe by reigniting
its people’s suppressed Catholic faith. In Iran, meanwhile, the Islamic
Revolution transformed the nation into a theocracy almost overnight,
overthrowing the shah’s modernizing monarchy. Farther west, Margaret Thatcher
became prime minister of Britain, returning it to a purer form of free-market
capitalism and opening the way for Ronald Reagan to do the same in the United States. And
in Afghanistan, a Soviet invasion fueled an Islamic holy war with global
consequences; the Afghan mujahedin presaged the rise of al-Qaeda and served as
a key factor in the fall of communism.
Weaving the story of each of these
counterrevolutions into a brisk, gripping narrative, Strange Rebels is
a groundbreaking account of how these far-flung events and disparate actors and
movements gave birth to our modern age.
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