Book Review: Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar World by Masuda Hajimu

By Iacobelli, Pedro D. | International Social Science Review, September 2016 | Go to article overview

Book Review: Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar World by Masuda Hajimu


Iacobelli, Pedro D., International Social Science Review


Hajimu, Masuda. Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar World. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015. viii + 388 pages. Hardcover, $39.95.

When did the Cold War begin? Who started it? These are two of the most studied questions in the research on the Cold War, and yet their answers have not been settled by historians. Traditional scholarship on the Cold War has paid attention to the beginning of the undeclared political and ideological conflict between the United Soviet Socialist Republic and the United States, the world's two most powerful nations post World War II. These studies point to a range of possible birthdates for the conflict including the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the early post-war order circa 1945. Newer trends, however, have shifted historians' focus from the origin of the war and the two superpowers, to the domestic historical contingencies in other countries and regions. Indeed, historians such as Odd Westad and Heonik Kwon provide a fresh framework for Cold War studies by examining the origins and course of Third World revolutions. In Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar World, based on his dissertation research, social historian Masuda Hajimu revisits the question concerning the origin of the Cold War from both a global and local perspective, and challenges previous conceptions about the 'reality' of the conflict.

In his book, Hajimu argues that the Korean War was a catalyst for the Cold War. The innovation in Hajimu's argument is that it does not presuppose the existence of the Cold War order; on the contrary, the book asserts that the reality of the Cold War finds its origin in a fiction, from the myths and emotionally charged reactions of everyday people. Thousands of people in the lower levels of society, particularly in countries heavily hit by the fire of World War II and those involved in the Korean War, were fearful of potential enemies and a world-wide nuclear war. In addition, parallel to--and nurtured by--this social trend, the political and diplomatic conflict unfolded. Indeed, Hajimu also sees the origin of the Cold War as a reflection of a strong social (not necessarily political) conservatism that was a backlash to the progressive agenda of the years of World War II, for example, the incorporation of women into the workforce and the opening to protest movements in occupied Japan. Within the so-called Capitalist Bloc these backlashes adopted the label of 'anti-communism'; in the Soviet Union and China, the conservative movement took advantage of the 'anti-American imperialism' campaigns to achieve social conservatism.

Hajimu presents an incremental picture of the Cold War. …

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