God-Fearing and Free: Reviews of a Cultural History of the Cold War.

Paul Harvey

A brief note, and a couple of excellent contrasting reviews, of a new book sure to draw a lot of attention: Jason W. Stevens, God-Fearing and Free: A Spiritual History of America's Cold War, just out with Harvard U. Press.

This isn't your father's Cold War book, nor a foreign policy/diplomatic history such as Melvyn Leffler's For the Soul of Mankind. Nor it is one of those "all those crazy duck-and-cover drills, my weren't those funny" books -- not that I dislike those books, and students love them, but that territory has been covered. Rather, this is a searching cultural history of American thought and culture during the Cold War, focusing especially on the liberal elite Cold Warriors who provided much of the discourse from that period.

The link above takes you to a description, table of contents, etc. for the book. Here, I wanted to call your attention to two thoughtful reviews; both praise the achievements of the book, but the first provides some critical reflections and dissent.

Molly Worthen, " 'Counter-Modernism' and Cold War America," extensively reviews the volume, finds much to like, but dissents from portions of what she calls a "learned but highly theoretical intellectual history," one she finds too detached from the real world of policymakers.

By contrast, in The New Republic's online book review section The Book, Michael Kimmage finds God-Fearing and Free a "brilliant and original work of scholarship" in the best tradition of American Studies -- in other words, he likes most precisely what Worthen finds most problematic. The book discusses at considerable length the theme of "innocence," one a staple of American studies scholarship and one revived here to great effect.

I can't wait to dig into this text in more detail; in the interim, these two thoughtful reviews provide much food for thought.


newer post older post