In a work of sweeping scope and luminous detail, Elizabeth Borgwardt describes how a cadre of World War II American planners inaugurated the ideas and institutions that underlie our modern international human rights regime.
Borgwardt finds the key in the 1941 Atlantic Charter and its Anglo-American vision of "war and peace aims." In attempting to globalize what U.S. planners heralded as domestic New Deal ideas about security, the ideology of the Atlantic Charter--buttressed by FDR's "Four Freedoms" and the legacies of World War I--redefined human rights and America's vision for the world.
Three sets of international negotiations brought the Atlantic Charter blueprint to life--Bretton Woods, the United Nations, and the Nuremberg trials. These new institutions set up mechanisms to stabilize the international economy, promote collective security, and implement new thinking about international justice. The design of these institutions served as a concrete articulation of U.S. national interests, even as they emphasized the importance of working with allies to achieve common goals. The American architects of these charters were attempting to redefine the idea of security in the international sphere. To varying degrees, these institutions and the debates surrounding them set the foundations for the world we know today.
By analyzing the interaction of ideas, individuals, and institutions that transformed American foreign policy--and Americans' view of themselves--Borgwardt illuminates the broader history of modern human rights, trade and the global economy, collective security, and international law. This book captures a lost vision of the American role in the world.
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About the Author
Elizabeth (Kopelman) Borgwardt is Associate Professor of History at Washington University in St. Louis.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Charting a New Course for Human Rights
Part I: Somewhere in the Atlantic, August 1941
1. The Ghost of Woodrow Wilson
2. Forging a New American Multilateralism
Part II: Bretton Woods, July 1944
3. The Perils of Economic Planning
4. Investing in Global Stability
Part III: San Francisco, June 1945
5. The Chimera of Collective Security
6. Learning to Work Together by Working Together
Part IV: Nuremberg, August 1945
7. The Limits of Law
8. Internationalizing New Deal Justice
Part V: America in the World
9. Forgotten Legacies of the Atlantic Charter
10. An Expanding Vision of the National Interest
What People are Saying About This
A superb, instructive, and even gripping treatment of America's role in the development of human rights. Too often, the United States is portrayed as a kind of obstacle to movements for human rights worldwide. Borgwardt sets the record straight, with illuminating and sometimes moving detail.
Cass R. Sunstein, author of Why Societies Need Dissent
An ambitious, original, and innovative work that argues for the 1940s as a transformative period in international relations, when American public opinion shifted to support a new internationalism. This was not simply the work of liberal, reforming elites but a sea change in the way Americans thought about their place in the world.
Kenneth Cmiel, author of Democratic Eloquence
If you want to understand the origin of modern international rights, read this book. It powerfully and vividly recreates the moment when American leaders contributed the confident experimentalism and legal pragmatism of the New Deal to the challenge of securing a world where all people can live free from fear and want. Borgwardt persuasively demonstrates how ideas shape institutions, aspirations, and world history, and how they bridge the gap between devastating violence and hopes for justice and peace. Now, when the legacies of these institutions are so much under global challenge--and even repudiated at times by American leadership--A New Deal for the World reminds us that this dynamic interaction among words, institutions, and contexts has ripple effects that last long beyond founding moments.
Martha Minow, author of Between Vengeance and Forgiveness
Borgwardt's meticulously researched study shows how a few war-inspired phrases from Churchill and Roosevelt metamorphosed into moral principles that transformed overseas empire and domestic racism from facts of life into scandals demanding attention. Every reader of U.S. history and international relations will have to confront the evidence presented in this learned, surprising, and indispensable book, which demonstrates the profound--and unanticipated--consequences of the ideas of security, justice, and human rights in shaping power politics in the postwar world.
James T. Kloppenberg, author of The Virtues of Liberalism
Elizabeth Borgwardt's splendid book does much more than remind us of a different American outlook on world affairs. It brilliantly explores the origins of that international outlook in the domestic politics and state-building of New Deal America. In the postwar world, every country's national security would hinge on international human rights and the establishment of secure political and economic institutions.
William E. Forbath, author of Law and the Shaping of the American Labor Movement
When Roosevelt and Churchill met in Placentia Bay in 1941 and signed the Atlantic Charter, they created the momentum that led to the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the human rights revolution. This book is a surpassingly readable and reliable study of this founding moment. It is also an inspiring evocation of consummate leadership and political vision.
Michael Ignatieff, author of The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror