The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War

The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War

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art, , 2021-read, social-commentary-and-other, sixties, art, lit-crit-theory, History, Nonfiction, Art, Politics, Philosophy, Cultural, Literature, North American Hi...

In his follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Metaphysical Club, Louis Menand offers a new intellectual and cultural history of the postwar years
The Cold War was not just a contest of power. It was also about ideas, in the broadest sense--economic and political, artistic and personal. In The Free World, the acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning scholar and critic Louis Menand tells the story of American culture in the pivotal years from the end of World War II to Vietnam and shows how changing economic, technological, and social forces put their mark on creations of the mind.

How did elitism and an anti-totalitarian skepticism of passion and ideology give way to a new sensibility defined by freewheeling experimentation and loving the Beatles? How was the ideal of "freedom" applied to causes that ranged from anti-communism and civil rights to radical acts of self-creation via art and even crime?

With the wit and insight familiar to readers of The Metaphysical Club and his New Yorker essays, Menand takes us inside Hannah Arendt's Manhattan, the Paris of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Merce Cunningham and John Cage's residences at North Carolina's Black Mountain College, and the Memphis studio where Sam Phillips and Elvis Presley created a new music for the American teenager. He examines the post war vogue for French existentialism, structuralism and post-structuralism, the rise of abstract expressionism and pop art, Allen Ginsberg's friendship with Lionel Trilling, James Baldwin's transformation into a Civil Right spokesman, Susan Sontag's challenges to the New York Intellectuals, the defeat of obscenity laws, and the rise of the New Hollywood.

Stressing the rich flow of ideas across the Atlantic, he also shows how Europeans played a vital role in promoting and influencing American art and entertainment. By the end of the Vietnam era, the American government had lost the moral prestige it enjoyed at the end of the Second World War, but America's once-despised culture had become respected and adored. With unprecedented verve and range, this book explains how that happened.

Title:The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War
ISBN:9780374158453
Format Type:

    The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War Reviews

  • Tony

    This is a sprawling cultural history, American- and European-centric, of that time after the Second World War. The author, Louis Menand, won all the awards for his earlier book: The Metaphysical Club...

  • Bagus

    I could forgive the length of this book which is almost 944 pages for the rich contents inside it. Written by the Pulitzer Prize winner Louis Menand, this book offers an interesting point of view to t...

  • J Earl

    The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War from Louis Menand is a sweeping survey that looks at how and why perceptions about the United States, both domestically and internationally, changed so ...

  • Michael Reilly

    Menand sets out in this book to describe the intellectual and artistic scene in America and Western Europe from the end of World War 2 in 1945 to the rise of the hippies in 1967. This is intellectual ...

  • Joshua

    pedestrian analysis interspersed with interesting anecdotes––in short: a 700-page collection of extended, only tangentially related, New Yorker articles. ...

  • Alex Goodall

    As any good Cold Warrior might hope, Louis Menand gets his defence in first. This is not a book about the "cultural Cold War”, he explains in his preface - that is, the way that culture was mobilise...

  • Lloyd Fassett

    4/23/21 It found me through a review in the Wall St. Journal here: ‘The Free World’ Review: Cold War Culture - As the Americans and Soviets jockeyed for dominance, every page and painting was a po...

  • Craig Werner

    I began this with very high hopes; Menand's The Metaphysical Club deserves its reputation and, as his work for the New Yorker shows, he can write well. But the more I read, the more my disappointment ...

  • Miguel

    At one point in the book, Menand describes his endeavor as an intellectual history which he defines as explaining art & ideas by examining the conditions of their production and reception. That’s in...

  • Jim

    I read a chapter from this book--the one on the Berkeley Free Speech Movement--in the New Yorker a couple of months ago, . At the time I didn't notice that it was a chapter from a book. The early 60s ...