Fear Itself: Book summary and reviews of Fear Itself by Ira Katznelson

Fear Itself

The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time

by Ira Katznelson

Fear Itself

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Book Summary

Redefining our traditional understanding of the New Deal, Fear Itself 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. Fear Itself is a necessary work, vital to understanding our world - a world the New Deal first made.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Overall, a critical and deeply scholarly work that, notwithstanding, is compulsively readable." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Some will quarrel with aspects of Katznelson's analysis, few with his widely allusive, elegant prose." - Kirkus

"Fear Itself deeply reconceptualizes the New Deal and raises countless provocative questions." - David Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Freedom from Fear

"Fear Itself is a monumental history of the New Deal's greatest paradox, its connections with the Jim Crow South. Combining historical nuance with his clear eye for the big picture, Ira Katznelson contributes one of the most trenchant accounts yet of American liberalism at the height of its power in the 1930s and 1940s - a book of major importance in understanding our own political distempers and opportunities." - Sean Wilentz, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln

"Ira Katnelson's Fear Itself is an extraordinary book that will change our understanding of the New Deal. He has shown the ways in which racism has shaped American life in the age of the Great Depression, and among other things he has brought the U.S. Congress to the front of the New Deal. It is a remarkable work of scholarship." - Alan Brinkley, author of The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War

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More Information

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 When Affirmative Action Was White.

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