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The Left at War

Michael Berube

Publication Year: 2009

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.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

Writing this book has been a thoroughly collaborative enterprise for me. Chris Robinson, a brilliant assistant professor of political science at Clarkson University (and, like me, a lifelong fan of the New York Rangers), read the first complete draft of the book and offered a ten-page critique of everything I’d written to that point. Bruce Robbins, Cary Nelson, and ...

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Introduction: On Time

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pp. 1-8

This is, I hope , an untimely book. Though I began thinking about it in the darkest days of the Bush-Cheney administration, 2002–03, I write these prefatory words in the opening moments of 2009, when those days now seem to many a hideous, aberrant period best forgotten. For after the historic events of 2008, all that is solid has seemed to melt into air: against all odds, the United States has elected its first black president, an ...

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1 Nowhere Left to Go

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pp. 9-39

This book is an attempt to bring the history of cultural studies to bear on questions of U.S. foreign policy and international relations. My topics range from Stuart Hall’s work on the rise of Thatcherism to America’s post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; from mid-1990s debates over multiculturalism and popular culture to late-1990s debates over war in ...

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2 Root Causes

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pp. 41-95

In some ways it may be pointless to criticize Noam Chomsky. Not because the criticism itself has no point, but because the response to criticism of Chomsky is so drearily predictable. His most devoted fans on the left treat all forms of criticism, no matter how careful, as “smears” and individual critics as “apostates”;1 his dedicated detractors on the right latch onto all forms of criticism as proof that Chomsky is anti-American, or ...

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3 Iraq: The Hard Road to Debacle

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pp. 97-152

In 2001 I supported the war in Afghanistan—initially with trepidation. At the time, I was worried that the U.S. response would be wanton and indiscriminate, killing tens or hundreds of thousands of civilians. I despised the fact that the Bush-Cheney administration would be responsible for the U.S. response; I was worried as well that the Soviet invasion might turn ...

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4 Cultural Studies and Political Crisis

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pp. 153-207

In this chapter I turn from debates over war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo and offer a reexamination of Stuart Hall’s work on Thatcherism almost a generation ago. This is an oblique turn for two reasons. First, Hall has not played a major role in the debates over Afghanistan and Iraq on the British left, and he does not offer a precise or detailed ...

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5 What Is This “Cultural” in Cultural Studies?

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pp. 209-248

Outside the still-tiny world of academic cultural studies and communications departments, Hall’s work on Thatcherism and the left is nearly invisible in the United States. The Hard Road to Renewal is out of print, and has been for some years now; and most of the anthologies that include Hall’s essays tend not to include any of the material from Hard Road (remarkably, this is true even of the best anthology in the ...

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Conclusion: Equality and Freedom

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pp. 249-254

Ellen Willis’s intellectual inspirations were not those of Stuart Hall. Where Hall looked back to Gramsci, Raymond Williams, E. P. Thompson, and C. L. R. James, Willis blended a feminist “cultural radicalism” with the Reichian conviction that political oppression has its origins in sexual repression. And Ellen Willis’s background is not that of Stuart Hall: Willis grew up in Queens, New York, the daughter of a New York ...


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pp. 255-291

Works Cited

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pp. 293-313


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pp. 315-339

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About the Author

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p. 341

Michael B

E-ISBN-13: 9780814739051
E-ISBN-10: 0814739059
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814799840
Print-ISBN-10: 0814799841

Page Count: 349
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 488594239
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Left at War

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Radicalism -- United States.
  • Politics and culture -- United States.
  • Right and left (Political science).
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 1989-.
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