A theory of mine, for some time now, has been that a swelling of ‘civilizational pride’ among Westerners began sometime in the late-1980s — as it became clear victory in the Cold War was at hand — and lasted through some point in the early 1990s. It created levels of optimism unseen for at twenty to thirty years prior to that, and some of the cultural-political effects of this swelling of pride are still with us today.
I was reminded of this hypothesis by a Mangan post, which pointed to a recent study of women’s vs. men’s happiness in the USA and EU over the past four decades.
Here is the USA’s graph (Dark lines are for men’s happiness, gray lines for women’s):
American men’s happiness was indeed clearly highest in the late 1980s. American Women’s happiness trends are erratic, all over the place really, with no distinct peak but rather a general downward trend. (They also had a “happiness bounce” in the late ’80s, though).
Some might point out that American happiness was declining by 1990, already, which does not fit with the hypothesis. To that I would say that ‘happiness’ and what I called above ‘civilizational pride’, though surely related, are not identical. Remember that the USA had a recession in the early 1990s, which would affect superficial self-reported happiness (as measured above), but perhaps not ‘civilizational pride’ as much.
The same data for the EU show the same trend more dramatically:
A distinct wave of happiness befell Western-Europeans, with its beginnings in 1985 or 1986, peaking in about 1989 (with the Fall of the Soviet-client communist regimes), and lasting through about 1992. The only time EU-men’s happiness was above the ‘0’-line, from the early-1970s to the late-1990s, was during the years straddling 1989.
The evidence for the social effects of this phenomenon is all over the place, for those willing to look at it. A decrease in crime, the decline in abortion, modern nationalist parties in Europe emerging in their embryonic stages. Those in the communist-bloc rose up in voelkisch pride, and this created a feedback loop among their European brethren to the West. It was in the late 1980s and early 1990s that Holocaust Revisionism reached its peak — with semi-annual international conferences, journals, a flurry of publications, and high-profile criminal trials — and essentially won the argument (although respectable opinion would not allow the record to be officially corrected).
But all these aside, look especially at (updated with latest info in 2015) The USA’s total fertility rates by race in the 1980s into the 2010s. Beginning with those conceived in 1986, all races saw an upswing (with Gorbachev now on the scene, and the increasing realization that the USSR was a bit of a paper-tiger after all — optimism was allowed to flower once again). In the case of White-Americans, the End-of-the-Cold-War fertility rise has actually not abated: It lifted fertility by 15%, and it stayed there.