The deep movements of political and social history have long been seen to operate in cycles that more properly begin in the late 1920s to early 1930s, as the decade of economic crises and imperial decline that fermented not only the Second World War, but also the long Fordist-Keynesian hegemony that followed – what Immanuel Wallerstein has called the ‘apotheosis of liberalism’ – stretching right up to the crises of the 1970s and the inauguration of neoliberalism as a dominant global polity. Indeed, it might be suggested – admittedly rather polemically – that geopolitically speaking, the 1930s stretched from the Wall Street Crash to the Oil Crisis of 1973 – parallel crises that provide one reason why, for instance, leftist interest in the 1930s surged during the 1970s and 1980s. This is not to say, of course, that literary history charts in any simple manner such cycles of world economic systems, but rather to assert that any attempt to revisit the 1930s must surely pay attention to these large-scale movements. Indeed, such a long stretch taken merely as a continuity would fail to attend to the marked similarities between post-Fordism and the 1930s (or indeed the interwar period more broadly) as periods of protracted, even normalised crisis. Thinking of periodisation in these terms offers … a pressing reason for rereading the thirties in our present moment, as a prolepsis of what Lauren Berlant has termed neoliberalism’s ‘crisis ordinariness.’
Leo Mellor and Glyn Salton-Cox, “The Long 1930s: Introduction.” Critical Quarterly.
Underlying most modern readings of the American canon is a common wish. These interpreters need to assign value to the independence of a present moment from past moments because they identify this independence with the cultural motion of modernity. Their commentaries assign value to the passing moment, the sheer appearance of the new, by associating it with the Revolutionary moment in America's past.
Donald Pease, Visionary Compacts and the Cold War Consensus