AUTHORWinkler, Allan M.
TITLELife Under a Cloud: American Anxiety about the Bomb
PUBLISHERUniversity of Illinois Press
CITYChicago, IL

Weapons of mass destruction left an indelible mark on the social, economic, and political cultures of American life, says Allan Winkler in this book. In particular, he describes the widespread fear that the weapons wrought in the American mind. The Manhattan Project, like the development of hydrogen weapons, was driven by fear of Germany and the Soviet Union. Winkler contrasts that fear with the hope that calmed it, seen in new possibilities for energy and peace. Winkler shows that only sharply focused expressions of fear generate momentum for change; his examples include John Hersey’s Hiroshima, Jonathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth, and Nevil Shute’s On the Beach. Winkler explains the interplay of protest and policy such as the Limited Test Ban Treaty following the Cuban Missile Crisis. He shows how little impact most cultural and scientific protests had on policy makers, who were obsessed with American security. One interesting section recalls President Dwight Eisenhower’s propaganda campaign to quell public fears stirred by On the Beach. The book focuses chronologically on the important dialogues of atomic issues.

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