The Age of Nixon: A Study in Cultural Power

The Age of Nixon: A Study in Cultural Power

Carl Freedman

Language: English

Pages: 214

ISBN: 1846949432

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The Age of Nixon: A Study in Cultural Power

Carl Freedman

Language: English

Pages: 214

ISBN: 1846949432

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The fundamental argument this book is, first, that Richard Nixon, though not generally regarded as a charismatic or emotionally outgoing politician like Franklin Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan, did establish profound psychic connections with the American people, connections that can be detected both in the brilliant electoral success that he enjoyed for most of his career and in his ultimate defeat during the Watergate scandal; and, second and even more important, that these connections are symptomatic of many of the most important currents in American life. The book is not just a work of political history or political biography but a study of cultural power: that is, a study in the ways that culture shapes our politics and frames our sense of possibilities and values. In its application of Marxist, psychoanalytic, and other theoretical tools to the study of American electoral politics, and in a way designed for the general as well as for the academic reader, it is a new kind of book.

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the cultural power of the Horatio Alger myth was crucial to the formation of Nixon’s political personality and was in turn used by him to major political effect—so much so, indeed, that Nixon often pretended that his own success, his own achievement of “the American dream,” had been attained despite initial economic obstacles more formidable than any he ever really faced. The omnipresence of culture must, then, help to make it an enormously potent enemy or ally in any socio-political battle.

who supported, or at least accepted, many of the essential economic reforms of the New Deal, or with the Republican Old Guard led by Robert Taft, whose Bourbon economics were inherited by Barry Goldwater, and, later, by the Reaganites. Nixon remained on generally good terms with both factions. In 1952, he was selected as Eisenhower’s running mate partly because he was far enough right to provide some ideological (as well as geographic and age) balance to the more liberal Eisenhower: and yet not

tradition of puritanical religiosity so integral to the petty-bourgeois moralism of Nixonian, and American, culture. In this light, an anal-erotic obstinacy becomes almost a necessary sign of morality itself. Yet, if such fixity is therefore more widely shared among American politicians than parsimony or even orderliness—if, so to speak, “everybody does it”—then, as usual, Nixon did it more and better than most. As with his miserliness and his craving for order, the political effectiveness of

was likely to choose Nixon for the vice-presidential spot. Nixon was effectively barred, Constitutionally, from serving with his fellow Californian Warren; while Taft was generally expected to choose someone much senior to Nixon— possibly Warren (who had been Dewey’s running mate in 1948), or possibly William Knowland, California’s other senator and a close personal friend of Taft’s. So, as the convention approached, Nixon went to work for Eisenhower. Though the California delegation was supposed

it operates in implicit opposition to some supposedly pristine or “authentic” presentation of human personality. As Nietzsche was, perhaps, the first to point out with full clarity, all presentations of the self are “packaged” in one way or another. There simply is no level of “true” selfhood that, pre-existing all language and ideology, is innocent of them and waits to be represented, truly or falsely, by the various arts and techniques of communication. No better set of examples could be

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