The Strange Death of American Liberalism by H.W. Brands

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In this provocative book, H. W. Brands confronts the vital question of why an ever-increasing number of Americans do not trust the federal government to improve their lives and to heal major social ills. How is it that government has come to be seen as the source of many of our problems, rather than the potential means of their solution? How has the word liberal become a term of abuse in American political discourse? From the Revolution on, argues Brands, Americans have been chronically skeptical of their government. This book succinetly traces this skepticism, demonstrating that it is only during periods of war that Americans have set aside their distrust and looked to their government to defend them. The Cold War, Brands shows, created an extended, and historically anomalous, period of dependence, thereby allowing for the massive expansion of the American welfare state. Since the 1970s, and the devastating blow dealt to Cold War ideology by America's defeat in Vietnam, Americans have returned to their characteristic distrust of government.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Brands contends, the fate of American liberalism was sealed - and we continue to live with the consequences of its demise.

About H.W. Brands

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H. W. BRANDS is the Dickson Allen Anderson Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. A New York Times bestselling author, he was the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography for The First American and again for Traitor to His Class. His website is

Author Residence: Austin, TX
Published October 11, 2001 by Yale University Press. 224 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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The onset of the Cold War effectively silenced conservatism, writes Brands, after politicians who would have berated the Truman Administration for engaging in an undeclared war anywhere else refrained from criticism because of their “proprietary attitude toward Asia,” which assumed that Korea, an...

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The New York Times

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By seeing liberalism so totally through the prism of statism, Brands comes close to declaring what is simply a truism: that cold war liberalism was a product of the cold war and couldn't go on without it.

Dec 09 2001 | Read Full Review of The Strange Death of American...

Publishers Weekly

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Defining liberalism somewhat simplistically as "a prevailing confidence in the ability of government—preeminently the federal government—to accomplish substantial good on behalf of the American people," Brands argues that Americans have always been oppositely inclined and that only wartime exigen...

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London Review of Books

But when the national consensus supporting the Cold War shattered over Vietnam in the late 1960s, liberalism could not survive.

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