In the 21st century, historians have increasingly portrayed the 1970s as a "pivot of change" in world history focusing especially on the economic upheavals.
 In the
social progressive values that began in the 1960s, such as increasing political awareness and economic liberty of women, continued to grow. In the United Kingdom, the
1979 elections resulted in the victory of its
Margaret Thatcher, the first female British Prime Minister. Industrialized countries, except Japan,
experienced an economic recession due to
an oil crisis caused by oil embargoes by the
Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries. The crisis saw the first instance of
stagflation which began a political and economic trend of the replacement of
Keynesian economic theory with
neoliberal economic theory, with the first
neoliberal governments being created in
Chile, where a
military coup led by
Augusto Pinochet took place in 1973.
Tom Wolfe coined the term "'Me' decade" in his essay "
The 'Me' Decade and the Third Great Awakening", published by
New York Magazine in August 1976 referring to the 1970s. The term describes a general new attitude of Americans towards
individualism and away from
communitarianism, in clear contrast with the 1960s.
In Asia, affairs regarding the
People's Republic of China changed significantly following the recognition of the PRC by the
United Nations, the death of
Mao Zedong and the beginning of market liberalization by Mao's successors. Despite facing an oil crisis due to the OPEC embargo, the economy of Japan witnessed a large boom in this period, overtaking the economy of
West Germany to become the second-largest in the world.
 The United States withdrew its military forces from their previous involvement in the
Vietnam War, which had grown enormously unpopular. In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded
Afghanistan, which led to an
ongoing war for ten years.
The 1970s saw an initial increase in violence in the Middle East as
Syria declared war on
Israel, but in the late 1970s, the situation in the Middle East was fundamentally altered when Egypt signed the
Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty.
Anwar El Sadat,
President of Egypt, was instrumental in the event and consequently became extremely unpopular in the
Arab world and the wider
 He was assassinated in 1981. Political tensions in
Iran exploded with the
Iranian Revolution in 1979, which overthrew the
Pahlavi dynasty and established an
Islamic republic of Iran under the leadership of the
Africa saw further
decolonization in the decade, with
Mozambique gaining their independence in 1975 from the
Portuguese Empire after the restoration of democracy in
Portugal. The continent was, however, plagued by endemic military coups, with the long-reigning
Emperor of Ethiopia
Haile Selassie being removed, civil wars and famine.
The economies of much of the
developing world continued to make steady progress in the early 1970s because of the
Green Revolution. They might have thrived and become stable in the way that Europe recovered after
World War II through the
Marshall Plan; however, their economic growth was slowed by the
oil crisis but boomed immediately after.