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Fear Itself

The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time

Ira Katznelson (Author, Columbia University)

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Overview | Formats

“A powerful argument, swept along by Katznelson’s robust prose and the imposing scholarship that lies behind it.”—Kevin Boyle, New York Times Book Review

A work that “deeply reconceptualizes the New Deal and raises countless provocative questions” (David Kennedy), Fear Itself changes the ground rules for our understanding of this pivotal era in American history. Ira Katznelson examines the New Deal through the lens of a pervasive, almost existential fear that gripped a world defined by the collapse of capitalism and the rise of competing dictatorships, as well as a fear created by the ruinous racial divisions in American society. Katznelson argues that American democracy was both saved and distorted by a Faustian collaboration that guarded racial segregation as it built a new national state to manage capitalism and assert global power. Fear Itself charts the creation of the modern American state and “how a belief in the common good gave way to a central government dominated by interest-group politics and obsessed with national security” (Louis Menand, The New Yorker).

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • March 2014
  • ISBN 978-0-87140-738-2
  • 5.5 × 8.3 in / 720 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverFear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time


Endorsements & Reviews

“Engrossing… It is an exhilarating pleasure to lose yourself in this old-fashioned example of original historical scholarship. Fear Itself is a sprawling, ambitious book that offers illuminating insights on nearly every page. Among Katznelson’s gifts is the one most valuable to readers and most in danger of extinction in the American academy: He writes clear, energetic prose without a whiff of academic jargon or pretension… Entertaining and enlightening.” — Robert G. Kaiser, Washington Post

“Ambitious, fascinating, and slightly dark… [Katznelson’s] account of how a belief in the common good gave way to a central government dominated by interest-group politics and obsessed with national security.” — Louis Menand, New Yorker

“Brilliant.” — Scott Lemieux, American Prospect

“An excellent work of synthesis about the political and economic terms of the New Deal. . . . Powerful and well-paced . . . anyone wanting an intelligent guide to the ideas that still shape its place in our own fractious times should begin by reading this book.” — Duncan Kelly, Financial Times

“A provocative look at how modern America—created three-quarters of a century ago by the very Southern barons who were so important a part of the New Deal —was shaped. We think of history as a settled thing, tucked safely in a faraway past. This book is a reminder of how very surprising it can be.” — David Shribman, Boston Globe

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  2. Book CoverThe Politics of Power: A Critical Introduction to American Government

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  3. Book CoverWhen Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America


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