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Warfare State: World War II Americans and the Age of Big Government James T. Sparrow Oxford University Press USA First Edition edition


31st October 2011 History Books 0 Comments

“One finishes Warfare State with an appreciation of how beautifully wrought a piece of scholarship it is–meticulously researched, graceful written, and politically resonant.” –History News Network

“James Sparrow’s wide-ranging and deeply-researched book helps us to see modern America anew. Warfare State deftly shows how wartime reconfigurations of the U.S. economy, society, and political landscape fueled the explosive growth of centralized authority and set the contours of today’s virulent debates about the role of the federal government. A brilliant debut.”-Elizabeth Borgwardt, Washington University in St. Louis

“When did the American state become a leviathan? In this brilliant book, James Sparrow points to World War II rather than New Deal as the critical moment when the U.S. government entered the lives of its citizens in myriad and profound ways, revolutionizing American politics in the process. Warfare State tells this complex story more vividly, comprehensively, and acutely than any previous account. It also provides an indispensable guide to the battles over government legitimacy and power that so convulse America today.” -Gary Gerstle, Vanderbilt University

“In challenging the conventional wisdom of a weak American state, James Sparrow brilliantly connects bureaucratic developments in Washington to political culture at the grassroots, showing how the mobilization for World War II permeated everyday life and transformed the meanings of national citizenship. This book deserves a prominent place among the seminal works of modern American political history.”-Matthew Lassiter, University of Michigan

“The Warfare State is a potent blend of social and cultural history that sheds new light on one of the most important political moments in twentieth-century American history. Deploying a remarkable range of sources, Sparrow delves into the attitudes and practices of key clusters of citizens that range from workers to ethnic and racial groups, from front line soldiers to those producing military supplies back home. What emerges is a perspective that will no doubt form the basis for an important reinterpretation of the late New Deal years, World War II, and the Cold War society that grew out of it.”-Brian Balogh, University of Virginia

“This beautifully written, wonderfully insightful book shows how World War II facilitated a huge expansion of federal government with little dissent. A powerful melding of nationalism and liberalism, of obligation and rights, convinced a nation of government skeptics to fight, work, and pay taxes to a vastly larger, more intrusive, but newly legitimate state. A must read for all interested in the nature and scope of American governance.” -Andrea Louise Campbell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“[An] important new book . . . Rarely is so comprehensive an argument delivered in so concise a manner . . . one finishes Warfare State with an appreciation of how beautifully wrought a piece of scholarship it is — meticulously researched, gracefully written, and politically resonant.” –HNN.com

James T. Sparrow is Associate Professor of History at the University of Chicago.

Although common wisdom and much scholarship assume that “big government” gained its foothold in the United States under the auspices of the New Deal during the Great Depression, in fact it was the Second World War that accomplished this feat. Indeed, as the federal government mobilized for war it grew tenfold, quickly dwarfing the New Deal’s welfare programs.

Warfare State shows how the federal government vastly expanded its influence over American society during World War II. Equally important, it looks at how and why Americans adapted to this expansion of authority. Through mass participation in military service, war work, rationing, price control, income taxation, and the war bond program, ordinary Americans learned to live with the warfare state. They accepted these new obligations because the government encouraged all citizens to think of themselves as personally connected to the battle front, linking their every action to the fate of the combat soldier. As they worked for the American Soldier, Americans habituated themselves to the authority of the government. Citizens made their own counter-claims on the state-particularly in the case of industrial workers, women, African Americans, and most of all, the soldiers. Their demands for fuller citizenship offer important insights into the relationship between citizen morale, the uses of patriotism, and the legitimacy of the state in wartime.

World War II forged a new bond between citizens, nation, and government. Warfare State tells the story of this dramatic transformation in American life.

“One finishes Warfare State with an appreciation of how beautifully wrought a piece of scholarship it is–meticulously researched, graceful written, and politically resonant.” –History News Network

“James Sparrow’s wide-ranging and deeply-researched book helps us to see modern America anew. Warfare State deftly shows how wartime reconfigurations of the U.S. economy, society, and political landscape fueled the explosive growth of centralized authority and set the contours of today’s virulent debates about the role of the federal government. A brilliant debut.”-Elizabeth Borgwardt, Washington University in St. Louis

“When did the American state become a leviathan? In this brilliant book, James Sparrow points to World War II rather than New Deal as the critical moment when the U.S. government entered the lives of its citizens in myriad and profound ways, revolutionizing American politics in the process. Warfare State tells this complex story more vividly, comprehensively, and acutely than any previous account. It also provides an indispensable guide to the battles over government legitimacy and power that so convulse America today.” -Gary Gerstle, Vanderbilt University

“In challenging the conventional wisdom of a weak American state, James Sparrow brilliantly connects bureaucratic developments in Washington to political culture at the grassroots, showing how the mobilization for World War II permeated everyday life and transformed the meanings of national citizenship. This book deserves a prominent place among the seminal works of modern American political history.”-Matthew Lassiter, University of Michigan

“The Warfare State is a potent blend of social and cultural history that sheds new light on one of the most important political moments in twentieth-century American history. Deploying a remarkable range of sources, Sparrow delves into the attitudes and practices of key clusters of citizens that range from workers to ethnic and racial groups, from front line soldiers to those producing military supplies back home. What emerges is a perspective that will no doubt form the basis for an important reinterpretation of the late New Deal years, World War II, and the Cold War society that grew out of it.”-Brian Balogh, University of Virginia

“This beautifully written, wonderfully insightful book shows how World War II facilitated a huge expansion of federal government with little dissent. A powerful melding of nationalism and liberalism, of obligation and rights, convinced a nation of government skeptics to fight, work, and pay taxes to a vastly larger, more intrusive, but newly legitimate state. A must read for all interested in the nature and scope of American governance.” -Andrea Louise Campbell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“[An] important new book . . . Rarely is so comprehensive an argument delivered in so concise a manner . . . one finishes Warfare State with an appreciation of how beautifully wrought a piece of scholarship it is — meticulously researched, gracefully written, and politically resonant.” –HNN.com

Warfare State: World War II Americans and the Age of Big Government

Age of Fracture

Age of Fracture is an extraordinary book — an engrossing story of the new age of markets, a new kind of history of ideas, traversing the frontiers between intellectual, political and public words, and a brilliant explanation of contemporary public life.
–Emma Rothschild, author of Economic Sentiments: Adam Smith, Condorcet, and the Enlightenment (20110104)

With verve and fierce intelligence, Age of Fracture captures jagged truths about fluid thought, temporal upsets, and confrontations with fear. I could not put it down.
–Ira Katznelson, author of When Affirmative Action Was White (20110101)

Rodgers ranges deftly and expertly from Judith Butler to Jerry Falwell, exploring the fragmentation of American social thought in every conceivable arena. Age of Fracture is an indispensable guide to where we have been, and where– if anywhere– we might be going.
–Jackson Lears, Editor, Raritan (20110218)

The most wide-ranging and ambitious interpretation of late-twentieth century American intellectual history available.
–James Kloppenberg, author of Reading Obama (20110310)

Rodgers offers a series of penetrating soundings into the social thought of the end of the twentieth century. He considers the recasting of terms in economic theory, the reconceptualizations of power in social theory, the attacks on “essentialism” in race and gender theory, and the diminished notions of obligation in political theory. Finally, he stresses our own curious encounters with the disaggregated past, via glib interpretations that impart an “increasingly malleable, flexible, and porous” quality to history…Again and again in the dominant modes of thought in these years, Rodgers finds institutions, identities, social bonds, and even history itself thinning out and coming apart.
–Robert Westbrook (Bookforum 20110310)

While Rodgers’ narrative about the right is fascinating, none of it is terribly surprising: Defending the prerogatives of corporations and the wealthy, in new and novel ways, is what conservatives do. Age of Fracture provokes by showing that just as conservatives were marshaling their intellectual and philanthropic forces for what New Right gladiator Paul Weyrich called “a war of ideology…a war of ideas, it’s a war about our way of life,” liberals and progressives themselves “fractured” instead…Rodgers acknowledges both the long, shameful history of oppression as well as the thrilling cultural and political ferment that fractured the left into separate, sometimes warring mini-caucuses. But the book makes it clear that those fissures left liberalism without the ideology or rhetoric to combat the language of choice, markets and freedom that replaced social responsibility in the Reagan years.
–Joan Walsh (Salon 20110401)

Rodgers offers a challenging interdisciplinary overview of the last quarter of the 20th century…The great value of this book is that the major contentious issues of our time are discussed within a historic and intellectual framework…Rodgers’s work may not enter the vernacular like David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd, but it’s a similarly seminal look at the way we live (and govern) now.
–Thomas A. Karel (Library Journal 20110224)

Rodgers has a knack for characterizing and assessing ideas without reducing them to their strictly polemical dimensions. But he also conveys the urgency and consequence of intellectual debate: the sense that it has stakes…Age of Fracture provides a frequently insightful narrative of recent public intellectual life in this country–and also some understanding of its precarious situation now.
–Scott McLemee (The National 20110506)

A blend of commentary and contextualization, admirably judicious. Rodgers is an excellent anatomist. His forte is clarity. Once in a while, he delivers himself of an opinion that seems positively clairvoyant.
–Alex Danchev (Times Higher Education 20110729)

I live in a different country than the one into which I was born in 1942. I have never been quite able to pinpoint exactly what makes it so different. More than any other book I’ve read in recent years, Age of Fracture, by the Princeton historian Daniel T. Rodgers, has helped me to discover and to understand that difference…His ability to explain complex ideas–the Coase theorem comes to mind–is exemplary. He is unapologetic about treating intellectuals, and even academics, as producers of ideas worth taking seriously. He has the ability, unusual for historians of our day, to engage directly in current debates and to write with the clarity of a future observer of these same events. Intellectual history is never that easy to do. An intellectual history of our own time is even harder to pull off. Rodgers has done it and done it well. Perhaps, then, this book will have the happy effect of bringing to an end the trends it brings to light. Rodgers writes about our descent into thinking small because he wants us to once again think big–or so I read between his lines. If more thinkers wrote books like this, the country in which I live may once again resemble the one in which I was born. How sweet that would be.
–Alan Wolfe (New Republic online )

[An] important and well-written book…Age of Fracture helps us understand how the recent past set the terms for our current attempts to see society whole and conceive of an agenda for its future…[Rodgers] is a master of his craft; and this book, in which he takes history into the near present, shows what this mastery looks like in practice…Rodgers’s diagnostic survey of the most local and recent turn in the modern cycle of integration and disaggregation is essential reading for thinking about what is to come.
–Samuel Moyn (Dissent )

In The Age of Fracture, Daniel Rodgers offers an elegant, often eloquent, history of intellectual life in the last quarter of the twentieth century.
–Lisa Szefel (History News Network )

Age of Fracture dazzles as it moves from cultural history to political philosophy, Michel Foucault to John Rawls.
–John T. McGreevy (Commonweal )

It is hard to think of a work of American intellectual history, written in the last quarter of a century, that is more accomplished or more likely to remain permanently influential.
–Michael O’Brien (Times Literary Supplement )

In the last quarter of the twentieth century, the ideas that most Americans lived by started to fragment. Mid-century concepts of national consensus, managed markets, gender and racial identities, citizen obligation, and historical memory became more fluid. Flexible markets pushed aside Keynesian macroeconomic structures. Racial and gender solidarity divided into multiple identities; community responsibility shrank to smaller circles. In this wide-ranging narrative, Daniel Rodgers shows how the collective purposes and meanings that had framed social debate became unhinged and uncertain.

Age of Fracture offers a powerful reinterpretation of the ways in which the decades surrounding the 1980s changed America. Through a contagion of visions and metaphors, on both the intellectual right and the intellectual left, earlier notions of history and society that stressed solidity, collective institutions, and social circumstances gave way to a more individualized human nature that emphasized choice, agency, performance, and desire. On a broad canvas that includes Michel Foucault, Ronald Reagan, Judith Butler, Charles Murray, Jeffrey Sachs, and many more, Rodgers explains how structures of power came to seem less important than market choice and fluid selves.

Cutting across the social and political arenas of late-twentieth-century life and thought, from economic theory and the culture wars to disputes over poverty, color-blindness, and sisterhood, Rodgers reveals how our categories of social reality have been fractured and destabilized. As we survey the intellectual wreckage of this war of ideas, we better understand the emergence of our present age of uncertainty.

Age of Fracture










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