The Growth of American Thought

By Merle Curti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIX American Assertions in a World of Upheaval

In our time great revolutions and world wars and world crises have rolled over the continents. The bankruptcy of reason and of manners increases. The old specters rise up from the graves of history. . . . Irrationalism is triumphant; nationalism excels.

-- HERMANN KESTEN, 1946

The worldwide clash of communism and capitalism underlies every major conflict between the nations and within them.

-- CARL DREHER, 1947

In the intellectual sphere as in every other the decade after Pearl Harbor was dominated by the Second World War. Internationalism seemed to be the theme and to infuse the purposes of that war. "One world" was a slogan heard everywhere. And after the fighting stopped, the United States was committed to the manifold international activities of the United Nations and of the administrators of the Marshall Plan, as well as to its own cultural relations programs.

But these activities, whatever their implications for international cooperation, carried strong overtones of nationalism. This was clear not only in the conquered countries where military government was established, but elsewhere as well. In fact, American policies overseas were reflections of a determined effort to encourage political and economic systems--and loyalties--congenial to the American faith. Nationalism as an active force became dominant in our country, and indeed throughout the world.

This militant nationalism was explained and supported in this country by the articulate at all levels--by the men on the street and in the country store, by city and country editors, by magazine writers, preachers, and poets, by college professors and scientists, by officials and diplomats. There was not much analysis of the concept of nationalism itself except by a few intellectuals. But the renewed vigor and

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