Date of Award

August 2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

History

First Advisor

J. David Hoeveler

Committee Members

Marc Levine, Joseph Rodriguez, Howard Brick, Donald Pienkos

Keywords

Cold War, Foreign Policy, Intellectuals, Liberalism, New Left, Think Tanks

Abstract

For American intellectuals, the Cold War involved a battle far more important than the ones taking place in faraway lands. While the nearly half-decade conflict never degenerated into a nuclear war, the combat between intellectuals resembled a nuclear explosion at times. Participants in the war of words believed that intellectual debates would determine the direction of American foreign policy, and possibly whether the United States survived the Cold War. Led by groups such as the Americans for Democratic Action, liberal intellectuals held the dominant position during the first decades of the Cold War as they became hardened Cold Warriors intent on containing the Communist menace. By the late 1960s, however, the liberal consensus collapsed under the pressure of the Vietnam War. This dissertation looks at the instrumental role played by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a leftist think tank located in Washington D.C., in causing the breakup of the liberal consensus, as well as the Institute’s attempt to restore liberalism to its true form. From the time that IPS opened its doors in 1963 until the end of the Cold War in 1989, the Institute served as the guardian of a genuine liberalism corrupted by the actions undertaken by liberals in pursuit of victory in the Cold War.

Analyzing the intellectual contributions of the activists and writers associated with IPS from 1963 until the end of the Cold War, this dissertation probes a heretofore unexamined set of ideas regarding liberalism, democracy, and American foreign policy. Given life just as a New Left came into being in America, IPS carried forth the ideals of groups like Students for a Democratic Society by calling for a non-interventionist and non-ideological foreign policy, greater participatory democracy, and a more moral and humane world. Thus, despite the demise of liberalism and the concomitant rise of conservatism, a more progressive form of liberalism survived at IPS. At the same time, this study demonstrates the inherent difficulties facing intellectuals trying to influence policymakers, particularly when offering a progressive vision for America at home and abroad in a conservative climate. Drawing upon the think tank’s records and the expansive writings of IPS intellectuals, this study reveals the ways in which the think tank kept alive the promise of a reconstructed liberalism in Cold War America.

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