POSTWAR AMERICA by Howard Zinn

POSTWAR AMERICA

1945-1971
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Zinn undertakes to expose the destructive side of U.S. history since World War II, after arguing that the war itself was not a Four Freedoms crusade but a venture in power politics that laid the basis for expanded American empire. Crimes against the poor, blacks, women, and the Bill of Rights at home, and against peoples abroad, are the book's theme. For readers without previous exposure to this sort of Kolko-Barnet New Left challenge to the America-the-Virtuous approach, the book may be valuable; and Zinn's jeremiads are generally convincing as far as they go, but his moral energy fizzles out into mere moralism, since the book lacks explanatory strength. What was wrong with America? The "creed" -- nationalism, profit and competition, pseudo-democracy excluding mass participation. Why did rebellions occur in the '60's? A new "mood" -- rather a circular answer. In a "History of American Society" series entry, one expects analysis of the developmental (and counter-developmental) processes at work. But Zinn tends to fall back on timeless constructs; for example, the Attica massacre is regarded as simply typical of U.S. racism. But does he really believe it could have happened the same way in 1951 or 1961? Zinn's best work, perhaps, has been done on more concrete topics (SNCC: The New Abolitionists, 1964-65; the Ludlow 1912 article in Politics of History, 1971) but it seems that a certain demoralization in the ebb of the old "politics of protest" may account for the book's tone of impotent outrage. In the end Zinn returns to a form of Consciousness III hope which at this point smells of despair.
Pub Date: April 1st, 1973
ISBN: 089608678X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1973




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