Author Christian Caryl On 1979 And The Birth Of The 21st Century

Aug 15, 2014

This Reader's Corner interview was first broadcast in January, 2014

Pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio, and it’s likely you’ll learn about the latest fluctuation in world financial markets, or about a protest or uprising tied in some way to religion. 

Christian Caryl contends that these two pervasive forces, market capitalism and faith-inspired politics, have their roots in the year 1979. In his new book, Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century, Caryl contends that more than any other year in the latter half of the 20th century, 1979 heralded the economic, political, and religious realities that continue to define our world today.

Caryl focuses on five seemingly disparate personalities and events to make his case, including Pope John Paul II’s visit to Poland, the Islamic Revolution in Iran, sweeping market-oriented reforms in China and Britain, and the rise of Afghanistan’s Islamist resistance movement. While seemingly unrelated, these events shared commonalities that signaled significant change was already underway, according to Caryl’s book.

Caryl is a contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine, and a senior fellow at the Legatum  Institute.  He also is a senior fellow at the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books. Mr. Caryl served as head of Newsweek’s Tokyo and Moscow bureaus and Moscow bureau chief for U.S News & World Report.  He was a member of a Newsweek reporting team that won a 2004 National Magazine Award for reporting from Iraq. In his journalistic career, he has reported from 37 countries.