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.
Democracies are constantly reminded of the problem of coming to fast compromise and agreement in the face of pressing hardship. The years of FDR and The New Deal were a time of constant uncertainty in America. In Europe possible benefits of Communism and Fascism over this issue seemed promising to some. The United States had to reshape itself in a way that has affected the country’s structure through today. Compromise was made, and Ira Katznelson argues, partially at the cost of accepting the racist tendencies of the era’s southern democrats. Scott Brick performs this expansive, and unique look at one of the most important periods of shaping the modern United States. Brick gives a measured delivery, powerfully articulating this erudite and opinionated history lesson.
"Fear Itself deeply reconceptualizes the New Deal and raises countless provocative questions." (David Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Freedom from Fear)
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History in Context of Political Science Analysis
I really enjoyed this book and will look for more where history is embedded in a wider analytical context. Some of the non-fiction books I've listened to lack an "organizing principle," i.e. tend to be chronological reportage of facts - including the most trivial given the subject at hand - in which case I tend to lose interest.
The author clearly started out with a conceptual framework, in this case analyzing the crisis of American liberal democracy through the prism of FDR's New Deal in the specific context of race relations and the political role of Southern Jim Crow politics. As well, the author uses a broader brush to set pivotal New Deal politicking in a general geopolitical context. I found the history cum political science approach to the New Deal fascinating, engaging and intellectually stimulating.
Not really. First and foremost it's a longish listen. Equally, there's much to ingest, not to mention digest intellectually, so I paced myself to be able to think about what I'd heard, also doing a bit of further research on the side.
An excellent audio book all round, including the narration, which suited me very well. Each to their own, I'm well aware; that said, my personal preference, especially for thought-rich, not to mention thought-provoking books is that the narrator most definitely not be made to gallop through the text. I've had to return a couple of titles because it was narrated so fast that albeit I listened carefully, I could not hear any of it. So now I listen more carefully to sample audio to choose the most suitable narration for me.
So necessary for understanding our times
- Linh Nguyen