Few moments in history have seen as many seismictransformations as 1979. That one year marked the emergence of revolutionaryIslam as a political force on the world stage, the beginning of marketrevolutions in China and Britain that would fuel globalization and radicallyalter the international economy, and the first stirrings of the resistancemovements in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan that ultimately led to the collapseof the Soviet Union. More than any other year in the latter half of thetwentieth century, 1979 heralded the economic, political, and religiousrealities that define the twenty-first.
In Strange Rebels, veteranjournalist Christian Caryl shows how the world we live in today—and theproblems that plague it—began to take shape in this pivotal year. 1979 saw aseries of counterrevolutions against the progressive consensus that haddominated the postwar era. The year’s epic upheavals embodied a startlingconservative challenge to communist and socialist systems around the globe,fundamentally transforming politics and economics worldwide. In China, 1979marked the start of sweeping market-oriented reforms that have made the countrythe economic powerhouse it is today. 1979 was also the year that Pope John PaulII traveled to Poland, confronting communism in Eastern Europe by reignitingits people’s suppressed Catholic faith. In Iran, meanwhile, the IslamicRevolution transformed the nation into a theocracy almost overnight,overthrowing the shah’s modernizing monarchy. Farther west, Margaret Thatcherbecame prime minister of Britain, returning it to a purer form of free-marketcapitalism and opening the way for Ronald Reagan to do the same in the United States. Andin Afghanistan, a Soviet invasion fueled an Islamic holy war with globalconsequences; the Afghan mujahedin presaged the rise of al-Qaeda and served asa key factor in the fall of communism.
Weaving the story of each of thesecounterrevolutions into a brisk, gripping narrative, Strange Rebels isa groundbreaking account of how these far-flung events and disparate actors andmovements gave birth to our modern age.