‘The nuclear arms race is psychological at its roots’
Physicians and their therapies for the Cold War
in Understanding the imaginary war
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How did physicians feed the imagination of the Cold War? The example of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) clearly illustrates how medical expertise drew attention on the fact that a nuclear war did not begin with the firing of a missile, but with the psychological effects of the nuclear threat. Within the debate about the deployment of nuclear arms, physicians tried both to be neutral doctors and political stakeholders. But defining the Cold War as a disease and providing therapies remained a difficult balancing act between professional practice and political partisanship. More generally, IPPNW took part in creating a special perception of the Cold War, in order to transpose simulated future destructions into the societal and political present.

Understanding the imaginary war

Culture, thought and nuclear conflict, 1945–90

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