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The Culture of the Cold War (The American Moment) 2nd Edition

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0801851964
ISBN-10: 0801851963
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A lively and well-documented account of how the Cold War both produced and was sustained by super-patriotism, intolerance and suspicion, and how these pathologies infected all aspects of American life in the 1950s -- entertainment, churches, schools. Older readers will remember and still be amazed; younger ones will find this a readable introduction to a bizarre aspect of the American past." -- Foreign Affairs, reviewing the first edition

About the Author

Stephen J. Whitfield is Max Richter Chair in American Civilization at Brandeis University. He is the author of A Death in the Delta: The Story of Emmett Till and A Critical American: The Politics of Dwight Macdonald

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Product Details

  • Series: The American Moment
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press; 2nd edition (May 14, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801851963
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801851964
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #613,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Carolina Magnolia on August 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Considering that Stephen Whitfield's The Culture of the Cold War is part of the American Moment series and is published by Johns Hopkins UP, I felt this would be a safe purchase of a book catering to my interests as a history undergrad. By chapter four, however, I was certain that my purchase was misguided. Whitfield provides sensational quotes which would prompt any undergrad who is even halfway serious about their field to rush to the foot- or endnotes for further reading. The joke is on the reader as neither exists in this book.

A bibliographical essay is the closest that Whitfield comes to revealing his sources. This essay contains publications which the author describe as "rather pedestrian" (p245; referencing Parmet, Eisenhower and the American Crusades), "self-referential" (p251; referencing Hines, Populuxe), and "authors [who] sprinkle their learning with paprika" (p257, referencing Erik Barnouw and J. Fred MacDonald). Knowing how amazing homemade macaroni and cheese is when sprinkled with paprika I will presume this to be a compliment.

Choosing to not struggle through a coded labyrinth to determine if quotes were accurate, misquoted, or taken out of context, I bailed after chapter four. For example, Whitfield quotes Eisenhower as stating to Billy Graham, "Billy, I believe one reason I was elected President was to lead America in a religious revival," (p90) but there is no citation for this supposed quote. Is the intended undergrad reader expected to turn to the bibliographical essay and comb every publication regarding Eisenhower or Graham?

Another example is found on page 49 where Whitfield states the Internal Security Act of 1950 created "concentration camps in Pennsylvania, Florida, Oklahoma, Arizona (two), and California.
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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Too Much Free Time on June 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
Whitfield's book serves as a succinct overview of American Cold War culture, which he defines as ending in the early 1960s (a questionable decision but one made by many scholars who employ the "Cold War Culture" rubric).
What sets apart this book from other entries in the literature is Whitfield's recognition of the importance of religion to Cold War America and his willingness to grapple with the Cold War's full range of moral implications (an element lacking in most academic studies of the domestic side of the Cold War, which tend to fixate endlessly on McCarthy, who is used to tar and discredit all variants of American anti-Communism). This is not to suggest that Whitfield is an apologist for McCarthy, not at all, but to commend Whitfield for understanding that, to paraphrase Arthur Koestler, the Cold War was the story of the United States fighting for a half-truth against a total lie.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on May 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
I was preconditioned to appreciate this book when I first picked it up for a reading. I have been devouring studies of the Cold War because of its central place in American civilization in the latter half of the twentieth century, but I was disappointed in The Culture of the Cold War by Stephen Whitfield, a professor of American Studies at Brandeis University. First, the book is misnamed; it is really about the Red Scare, McCarthyism, the HUAC investigations, the Hollywood Ten, and the larger context of American anti-Soviet fears between the latter 1940s and the early 1950s. I have read other books on this subject that I have found more valuable. I would name David Caute's "The Great Fear: The Anti-Communist Purge Under Truman and Eisenhower" (Simon & Schuster, 1978); "The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left" (Princeton University Press, 2012) by Landon Storrs; and Richard M. Fried's "Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective" (Oxford University Press, 1991) as go to books dealing with this same subject.

Whitfield's book focuses on suspicions, the stigma of leftism, the potency of ideology, the politics of religion, the encouragement of informing on fellow citizens, the Red Scare among the film and television industry, and the hesitant and late-coming backlash against red baiting. Chapted on each of these subjects dominate the book. His second edition in 1996 appends to this discussion a disjunctive and not terribly well connected essay on the end of the Cold War to what had gone before. Overall, it is less than fully satisfying discussion.

I was struck, additionally, by the complete lack of references in the book.
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