Dictators, Democracy, and American Public Culture: Envisioning the Totalitarian Enemy, 1920s-1950s

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Univ of North Carolina Press, Oct 16, 2003 - History - 416 pages
Focusing on portrayals of Mussolini's Italy, Hitler's Germany, and Stalin's Russia in U.S. films, magazine and newspaper articles, books, plays, speeches, and other texts, Benjamin Alpers traces changing American understandings of dictatorship from the late 1920s through the early years of the Cold War.

During the early 1930s, most Americans' conception of dictatorship focused on the dictator. Whether viewed as heroic or horrific, the dictator was represented as a figure of great, masculine power and effectiveness. As the Great Depression gripped the United States, a few people--including conservative members of the press and some Hollywood filmmakers--even dared to suggest that dictatorship might be the answer to America's social problems.

In the late 1930s, American explanations of dictatorship shifted focus from individual leaders to the movements that empowered them. Totalitarianism became the image against which a view of democracy emphasizing tolerance and pluralism and disparaging mass movements developed. First used to describe dictatorships of both right and left, the term "totalitarianism" fell out of use upon the U.S. entry into World War II. With the war's end and the collapse of the U.S.-Soviet alliance, however, concerns about totalitarianism lay the foundation for the emerging Cold War.

 

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In Dictators, Democracy, and American Public Culture: Envisioning the Totalitarian Enemy, 1920s – 1950s, Benjamin L. Alpers argues that, while Americans treat dictatorship and democracy as polar ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
Dictatorship in American Public Culture 1920s1935
15
Modern Dictatorship as a New Form of Government 1920s1935
59
Declining Regard for Dictators amid Growing Fears of Dictatorship 19361941
77
Dictatorship and the Regimented Crowd 19361941
94
The Rise of Totalitarianism 19361941
129
The Problem of the Military in a Democracy 19411945
157
Understanding the Nazi Enemy 19411945
188
The Russian People Communism and Totalitarianism 19411945
220
Totalitarianism as Nightmare in Postwar America
250
Notes
303
Bibliography
347
Index
381
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About the author (2003)

Benjamin L. Alpers is Reach for Excellence Associate Professor in the Honors College and associate professor of history and film and video studies at the University of Oklahoma.

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