Cold War US Foreign Policy

Cold War US Foreign Policy: Key Perspectives

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Cold War US Foreign Policy
    Book Description:

    The first comprehensive description and critique of the six most important historical interpretations of US Cold War foreign policy: Traditionalism, Revisionism, Post-Revisionism, Corporatism, World Systems Theory, and Post-Structuralism.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-7925-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. iv-iv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Explaining American foreign policy during the Cold War is a complicated business. The proliferation of books and articles on this most written about of episodes in the history of US foreign policy presents the reader with what can at times appear to be an overwhelming and irresolvable mass of contradictory arguments. The logical way to begin to get a grasp of the topic and its parameters is to examine the surveys of the literature that are available. When one does so, however, it soon becomes clear that there is a sizeable gap in the historiography. There are books that provide...

  5. ONE Traditionalism
    (pp. 9-28)

    The first interpretation of US foreign policy that I am going to discuss was described by Anders Stephanson as of ‘mostly archaeological interest now’.¹ By this he meant that the traditionalist perspective, dominant from the late 1940s until the 1960s, has been superseded by the interpretations I will be examining later in the book. While this is a broadly fair assessment, there remain a number of reasons that make a description and evaluation of this approach valuable.

    In the first place, the various perspectives under discussion, while separate and competing, also comprise a meaningful whole. While I do not accept...

  6. TWO Revisionism
    (pp. 29-60)

    The Cold War revisionists are so-called because their writings represent an attempt to revise the celebratory story of American Cold War foreign policy, which had been created by traditionalism. An alternative label that has also been attached to this group of scholars is that of ‘New Left’ historians.¹ That tag reflects their rise to popular prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s and the adoption of their arguments by critics of the war in Vietnam. The term ‘revisionism’ is used throughout this book, however, for two principal reasons. First, the two leading revisionist historians of US foreign policy, William...

  7. THREE Post-revisionism
    (pp. 61-88)

    According to John Lewis Gaddis, the initial hope of post-revisionist scholars was that ‘if only we could take the strongest elements of these two previous approaches [orthodoxy and revisionism], discard the weaker ones, and ground the whole thing as much as possible in whatever archives were available, then truth would emerge’.¹ In this comment Gaddis captures certain characteristic elements of post-revisionism, and above all its desire for synthesis. Writing initially in the less febrile atmosphere of the 1970s, many post-revisionists saw themselves as consciously avoiding the ideological perspectives and one-sided judgements of traditionalists and revisionists in favour of an ‘objective’...

  8. FOUR Corporatism
    (pp. 89-109)

    More than any of the other schools of thought discussed in this book, corporatism has the potential to confuse simply on account of its name. Students new to the study of US foreign policy might not have heard of traditionalism or post-revisionism, but the words corporatism or corporatist are likely to be at least vaguely familiar. This is hardly surprising when one considers the number of phenomena to which the term has been applied. ‘Corporatism’ has been a nineteenth-century social doctrine that proposed the organisation of industrial society around functional economic groups; a stage in the development of capitalism;¹ a...

  9. FIVE World-systems Theory
    (pp. 110-139)

    World-systems theory represents the latest stage in the evolution of that strand of analysis, starting with revisionism (Kolko version) and passing through corporatism, that roots its explanation of US foreign policy in socio-economic factors. It is also influenced, however, by the postrevisionist critique of revisionism and corporatism and their failure to place US foreign policy within the context of the global system. Nevertheless, whereas the post-revisionists define the global system primarily in geopolitical terms of anarchy and the distribution of power, world-systems theorists characterise it in terms of the market and the distribution of wealth. What world-systems theory provides, in...

  10. SIX Post-structuralism and Culture
    (pp. 140-164)

    The perspectives discussed in the first five chapters of this book constitute a fairly coherent body of work. The analyses covered in this chapter, however, take arguments about US foreign policy and the Cold War in an entirely new direction. The perspectives discussed in the previous chapters disagreed about many things — what happened, why it happened, how it happened, what caused it, who was to blame and so on — but those disagreements occurred within a broad consensus as to what the objective of study was and how those studies were to be pursued. They all sought to establish what happened,...

  11. Conclusions
    (pp. 165-171)

    At the beginning of the 1980s, Charles Maier complained that US diplomatic history was ‘marking time’. The study of US foreign policy, he opined, was mired in outdated methods and concepts. Wagons circled against foreign ideas and dangerous theories, diplomatic historians, it was claimed, were wedded to an archaic empiricism and ‘objectivism’ while the rest of the scholarly world passed them by.¹ There was (and remains) some truth in this portrait; some researchers do still seem to believe that the discovery of new facts, rather than the interpretation of those facts, is the central task of the discipline. Nevertheless, Maier’s...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 172-184)
  13. Index
    (pp. 185-188)