Rethinking Cold War Culture

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 6/22/2010
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Books

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This anthology of essays questions many widespread assumptions about the culture of postwar America. Illuminating the origins and development of the many threads that constituted American culture during the Cold War, the contributors challenge the existence of a monolithic culture during the 1950s and thereafter. They demonstrate instead that there was more to American society than conformity, political conservatism, consumerism, and middle-class values. By examining popular culture, politics, economics, gender relations, and civil rights, the contributors contend that, while there was little fundamentally new about American culture in the Cold War era, the Cold War shaped and distorted virtually every aspect of American life. Interacting with long-term historical trends related to demographics, technological change, and economic cycles, four new elements dramatically influenced American politics and culture: the threat of nuclear annihilation, the use of surrogate and covert warfare, the intensification of anticommunist ideology, and the rise of a powerful military-industrial complex. This provocative dialogue by leading historians promises to reshape readers' understanding of America during the Cold War, revealing a complex interplay of historical norms and political influences.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introduction: U.S. Culture and the Cold Warp. 1
America's Children in an Era of War, Hot and Cold: The Holocaust, the Bomb, and Child Rearing in the 1940sp. 14
Cold War Workers, Cold War Communitiesp. 35
The Illusion of Unity in Cold War Culturep. 61
"We'll Follow the Old Man": The Strains of Sentimental Militarism in Popular Films of the Fiftiesp. 74
Sex, Gender, and the Cold War Language of Reformp. 106
Containment at Home: Gender, Sexuality, and National Identity in Cold War Americap. 124
"Cold War Culture" Doesn't Say It Allp. 156
Still the Best Catch There Is: Joseph Heller's Catch-22p. 175
Will the Sixties Never End? Or Perhaps at Least the Thirties? Or Maybe Even the Progressive Era? Contrarian Thoughts on Change and Continuity in American Political Culture at the Turn of the Millenniump. 201
Contributorsp. 225
Indexp. 229
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