The terrorist attacks of 9/11 and Bush’s belligerent response fractured the American left—partly by putting pressure on little-noticed fissures that had appeared a decade earlier.
In a masterful survey of the post-9/11 landscape, renowned scholar Michael Bérubé revisits and reinterprets the major intellectual debates and key players of the last two decades, covering the terrain of left debates in the United States over foreign policy from the Balkans to 9/11 to Iraq, and over domestic policy from the culture wars of the 1990s to the question of what (if anything) is the matter with Kansas.
The Left at War brings the history of cultural studies to bear on the present crisis—a history now trivialized to the point at which few left intellectuals have any sense that merely "cultural" studies could have something substantial to offer to the world of international relations, debates over sovereignty and humanitarian intervention, matters of war and peace. The surprising results of Bérubé’s arguments reveal an American left that is overly fond of a form of "countercultural" politics in which popular success is understood as a sign of political failure and political marginality is understood as a sign of moral virtue. The Left at War insists that, in contrast to American countercultural traditions, the geopolitical history of cultural studies has much to teach us about internationalism—for "in order to think globally, we need to think culturally, and in order to understand cultural conflict, we need to think globally." At a time when America finds itself at a critical crossroads, The Left at War is an indispensable guide to the divisions that have created a left at war with itself.
About the Author
Michael Bérubé is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature and Director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Penn State University. In 2012, he served as the President of the Modern Language Association. He is the author of several books, including Employment of English:Theory, Jobs, and the Future of Literary Studies (NYU Press, 1997), The Left at War (NYU Press, 2009), What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts?: Classroom Politics and “ Bias” in Higher Education (2006), and Life as We Know It: A Father, A Family, and an Exceptional Child (1996).
Table of Contents
Introduction: On Time 1
1 Nowhere Left to Go 9
2 Root Causes 41
3 Iraq: The Hard Road to Debacle 97
4 Cultural Studies and Political Crisis 153
5 What Is This "Cultural" in Cultural Studies? 209
Conclusion: Equality and Freedom 249
Works Cited 293
About the Author 341
What People are Saying About This
“If Berube succeeds in making leftists, from center-left politicians like Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank all the way out to the most radical anarchists, ponder the question of violence seriously, he will have done an inestimable service. That he attempts to do just that makes The Left at War the most important book I have read in the past five years.”-John McGowan in Symploke,
"[E]ngaging and provocative. [Aims] to stimulate the Left through an injection of new ideas. To the extent that these ideas challenge what some see as core Leftist convictions, some on the Left - those who are content to stay the course and await the coming revolution - will not welcome them. But those who see the Left at a critical crossroads, who believe that its recent political failures have amplified the need for the Left to reinvent and revitalize itself, will certainly find these ideas worth consideration... [Berube has] done valuable work in clearing the way for a more intellectually innovative and politically effective Left."-Marx & Philosophy,
“The most important book I have read in the past fiver years.”
“Indefatigably clear-minded and relentlessly researched, Bérubé’s The Left at War offers an invaluable excavation of just what has gone wrong, and occasionally right, with the academic/intellectual left in America. Anyone concerned with its future will be relying on this work for many years to come.”
-Eric Alterman,author of Why We’re Liberals
“A rigorous, hard-hitting, and impressively detailed critique and account of the United States left during wartime—and at war with itself. It is far and away the most thoroughly reasoned and researched brief for a middle way between a predictably anti-imperialist left and a revoltingly hawkish liberalism, and in this it is immensely useful both as a guide to recent debates and as a sort of internationalist handbook. Rousing, engrossing, principled, and brave.”
-Eric Lott,author of The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual