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Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Timeby Ira Katznelson
Synopses & Reviews
Redefining our traditional understanding of the New Deal, finally examines this pivotal American era through a sweeping international lens that juxtaposes a struggling democracy with enticing ideologies like Fascism and Communism. Ira Katznelson, "a towering figure in the study of American and European history" (Cornel West), boldly asserts that, during the 1930s and 1940s, American democracy was rescued yet distorted by a unified band of southern lawmakers who safeguarded racial segregation as they built a new national state to manage capitalism and assert global power. This original study brings to vivid life the politicians and pundits of the time, including Walter Lippmann, who argued that America needed a dose of dictatorship; Mississippi's five-foot-two Senator Theodore Bilbo, who advocated the legal separation of races; and Robert Oppenheimer, who built the atomic bomb yet was tragically undone by the nation's hysteria. is a necessary work, vital to understanding our world--a world the New Deal first made.
"Katznelson revivifies an often shop-worn subject in this new history of the New Deal. Rather than seeing FDR's brainchild as simply a great experiment in economic recovery and the enlargement of government responsibility, Katznelson emphasizes three often neglected aspects of that extraordinary era — which, it's worth noting, he dates from 1933 to 1952 (e.g., through Truman's White House years). The first is the fear — of poverty, totalitarianism, and atomic warfare — that hung over those two decades. The second is the pressure that the examples of Nazi and Soviet regimes put on American politics. And the third is the 'southern cage,' a 'Faustian terrible compromise' that held American government and the New Deal itself in the grip of racialist and militarily assertive policies. Emphasizing the long New Deal, putting it in its global context, and shifting the focus from the White House to Congress makes this book a major revision of conventional interpretations. But it's the extent of the permeating influence of Southern Democrats on national politics that is the work's revelation — Katznelson rues the New Deal's surrender to special interests at the expense of the public good. Overall, a critical and deeply scholarly work that, notwithstanding, is compulsively readable. 24 illus. Agent: Gloria Loomis, Watkins/Loomis Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A Best Book of 2013 " deeply reconceptualizes the New Deal and raises countless provocative questions."--David Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of
About the Author
Ira Katznelson is Columbia University's Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History. Having served as president of the American Political Science Association, he is a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He is also the author of Fear Itself and When Affirmative Action Was White.
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