The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War

The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War

Louis Menand

A landmark history of the Western World we wanted and of the one we made

‘This is a book about what people thought and said and did because of the fact that, for more than forty years, the United States was at war with the Soviet Union. The book is a narrative, not an argument, but it has a premise, which is that the Cold War is the key to understanding the social and cultural history of the West between 1945 and 1989, and it has a point, which is that the great consequence of that history, the consequence everyone in the world is living with today, was the globalization of American culture.
The book is a narrative about individual thinkers and writers, books and their readers, events and their consequences. It tells the story of Western art and thought between 1945 and 1989 in the setting of the events that made them possible and that circumscribed their fates. It looks at western culture from the underside, so to speak, from The Cat in the Hat to The White Album via Bonnie and Clyde.’

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

    • ‘Fascinating and zestfully good, THE METAPHYSICAL CLUB enlivens virtually everything it touches, and it touches many things… Anybody interested in modern America will find rewards aplenty.’ Economist
    • ‘Hugely ambitious, unmistakably brilliant… A landmark work of scholarship and a popular history of profound sweeping change.’ The New York Times
    • ‘An intellectual thriller which uses the lives of four thinkers to chart the way extraordinary events produced a cast of mind uniquely American, and thus uniquely modern… This is a marvellous book.’ Independent
    • ‘Outstanding. Menand’s book tells the story of the development of pragmatism, which is to philosophy what the western is to cinema and jazz is to music. This is not conventional intellectual history. Rather by interweaving the intellectual biographies of four key figures… Menand gives us a sense of how the American mind was reshaped at the turn of the century. Seductively crafted and compulsively readable…’ New Statesman
    • ‘THE METAPHYSICAL CLUB is brilliant, illuminating, necessary.’ Joan Didion