Fear Itself

Fear Itself

The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time

Book - 2013
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Baker & Taylor
An exploration of the New Deal era highlights the politicians and pundits of the time, many of whom advocated for questionable positions, including separation of the races and an American dictatorship.

Norton Pub
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013“Fear Itself deeply reconceptualizes the New Deal and raises countless provocative questions.”—David Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Freedom from Fear
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.

Book News
Katznelson (political science and history, Columbia University) looks at the New Deal in international historical context, drawing on Congressional documents to show that FDR was unable to control Southern power brokers who stipulated that they would cooperate with New Deal policies only if they did not disrupt racial stratification in the South. The book will appeal to both general readers and scholars. B&w historical photos are included. Liveright Publishing is an imprint of W. W. Norton. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

& Taylor

Brings to life the New Deal era of American history, highlighting the politicians and pundits of the time, many of whom argued for positions that modern citizens would find questionable, including advocating for separation of the races and an American dictatorship. 20,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York, NY : Liveright Publishing Corporation, c2013
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780871404503
Branch Call Number: 973.917 K159f
Characteristics: xii, 706 p. : ill. ; 25 cm


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IndyPL_JordanH May 15, 2019

Katznelson summarizes the main currents of established New Deal histories while adding a new, convincing hypothesis of his own. The "southern cage" hypothesis places Jim Crow Democrats, devoted to the continuation of white supremacy in the south, as the gatekeepers of New Deal legislation. This "single party system" could torpedo any bill they felt threatened racial dominance, and southern Democrats used this leverage to shape the legislation that defined the period. This meant excluding African Americans from many of the New Deal's benefits, and, more enduringly, stripping as much power away from unions as possible. The south could not abide a union movement that sought to organize blacks alongside whites. The coalition between southern Democrats and northern Republicans that enabled this "southern cage", prefigured the conservative movement that was to begin in earnest a short generation later. Katznelson describes the state that emerged from this process as "Janus-faced", with one face defined by special interests, and the other defined by a crusading military enthusiasm.

manoush Dec 15, 2014

This is a masterful work by political historian Ira Katznelson, the one book to read on the done-to-death topic of the New Deal. Its originality is in how Katznelson persuasively ties together several separate strands of contemporary American history: southern segregation, expansion of the federal government under FDR, Congressional logrolling, and Cold War foreign policy. By widening his lens to take in the 20-year period of the 1930s to the 1950s, Katznelson shows how America was saved from economic ruin by the New Deal, but at the cost of a "rotten compromise" with the Jim Crow south and the betrayal of equal black citizenship. Another legacy of the New Deal is a "two-sided state," one with both democratic advantages and "antidemocratic pathologies" both at home and abroad. Katznelson's book isn't some simple critique or contrarian revisionist take on the New Deal. His prose is full of admiration and analysis of how it literally saved American democracy and society. Instead, Katznelson tells a deeper story about the inevitable political costs and dark underside of the huge national transformation that was the New Deal.


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