In The Shadow Of War / Edition 1

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In this magisterial book, a prize-winning historian shows how war has defined modern America. Michael Sherry argues that America's intense preoccupation with war emerged on the eve of World War II, marking a turning point as important as the Revolution, the end of the frontier, and other watersheds in American history. In the sixty years since the war, says Sherry, militarization has reshaped every facet of American life: its politics, economics, culture, social relations, and place in the world.

According to Sherry, America's militarization began partly in response to threatening forces and changes abroad, but its internal sources and consequences in the long run proved more telling. War--as threat, necessity, or model of unified action--persistently justified the state's growing size, power, and activism. But as national government waged "war on poverty," war on AIDS," and "war on drugs," it fostered expectations of "victory" that it could not fulfill, aggravating the very distrust of federal authority that leaders sought to overcome and encouraging Americans to conceive of war as something they waged against each other rather than against enemies abroad. The paradigm of war thereby corroded Americans' faith in national government and embittered their conflicts over class, race, gender, religion, and the nation's very meaning. Sherry concludes by speculating on the possibility of ending America's long attachment to war.

A prize-winning historian shows how war has defined modern America, arguing that America's intense preoccupation with war emerged on the eve of World War II, marking a turning point as important as the Revolution, the end of the frontier, and other watersheds in American history. 17 illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sherry (The Rise of American Air Power) argues here that beginning in the 1930s, the U.S. entered into a process of ``militarization.'' WWII and the Cold War reinforced American impulses to develop both an effective state and a prosperous, powerful nation. War and national security became consuming anxieties, providing metaphors and models that shaped major areas of civil life and public policy. The U.S. has not relished conflict, nor has it been dominated by military institutions. War itself remained a shadow for most Americans, even between 1941 and 1945. Yet Americans have waged ``war'' on poverty, drugs, AIDS and a host of other ``enemies'' with more energy than consequence. Similarly, U.S. foreign policy from the 1940s to the present has often been capricious and contingent, responding to perceived emergencies rather than concrete national interests. Militarization has been costly: however, disengaging from it is proving a complex process in a world where conflict remains a norm. A highly detailed argument of interest primarily to historians. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Michael Parrish
With a sharp eye for paradox and irony, Michael Sherry has given us an absolutely fresh perspective on our last half—century in a volume notable for its intellectual reach, subtle analysis, and graceful exposition.
Reviews in American History
Stanley Kutler
Anyone who wants to come to terms with the complexity and meaning of American history in the twentieth century must confront this book. An impressive achievement indeed.
Times Higher Education Supplement
Robert Andersen
In this indispensable work of analysis and reflection, Sherry puts microscholarship to shame with his grand generalizing [and] reworks the national narratives, arguing powerfully for the primacy of militarization….A remarkable achievement.
Chicago Tribune
Gary Wills
An impressive and very important new book.
New York Review of Books
H. W. Brands
Sherry's book can be read as an opinionated survey of American history since the 1930s, or as an extended essay on the nature and meaning of twentieth—century American life. Either way it works marvelously.
Political Science Quarterly
Richard Overy
A remarkable tour de force….At times sparkling, sometimes frustratingly provocative, always stimulating.
Sunday Times (London)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300072631
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 624
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.38 (d)

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