Rethinking Karl Marx
American liberalism from the New Deal to the Cold War
in Marxism and America
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For many American leftists during the Great Depression, Karl Marx offered answers to the most pressing questions of the time. But by the early Cold War, this positive reception of Marx had taken a dramatic turn towards the negative. This was not surprising, given that the only nation in the world organized around Marx’s ideas had become an enemy of the United States. But this chapter offers a surprising revision. The history of Marx’s reception reveals Cold War liberalism is as much a product of the 1930s as anything that came later. Due to developments involving the New Deal and the Popular Front, a number of left and liberal intellectuals grew disillusioned with Marx. A new Marx had to be fashioned for the demands of a drastically altered world. The project of rethinking Marx helped define Cold War liberal thought. Cold War liberals used Marx as an integrative force for calibrating their views to a world in flux. Marx became the bane of liberal democracy.

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