The Left at War

The Left at War

The Left at War

The Left at War


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 Warbrings 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 Warinsists 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 Waris an indispensable guide to the divisions that have created a left at war with itself.


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 exceptionally talented centrist-liberal with the unlikely name of Barack Hussein Obama, and much of the rest of the world has hailed his election as a hopeful sign that the Bush-Cheney regime will now be decisively repudiated, along with its corrosive lawlessness at home and abroad. and one of the reasons for Obama's election, perhaps, was the dramatic (if long-delayed) implosion of the housing and credit markets in the United States, which has sparked a truly global crisis in capitalism and bespeaks what Michael Lewis and David Einhorn call “the end of the financial world as we know it.”

Why, then, bother with a book on the problems that continue to ail the U.S. left? However few leftists the Democratic Party may include, it seems undeniable that Democrats have finally broken the forty-year Republican stranglehold on the presidency (save for the electoral flukes known as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, no darlings of the left they) and have at long last rendered the Deep South irrelevant to national politics; indeed, a map of U.S. counties that voted more heavily Republican in 2008 than in 2004 reveals a gop that is strongest in the aging, overwhelmingly white districts of the lower Allegheny Mountains and the Ozarks—not a hopeful demographic sign for conservative strategists (Carter et al., “Shifts in the Map”). Still further south, the replacement of brutal fascist dictatorships in South America with democratically elected leftist leaders suggests that the tide has finally turned throughout the hemisphere, and the right is now on the defensive. Around the world, the collapse of the global financial system demonstrates the profound instability of unregulated . . .

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