“Against the ‘American Century,’ Toward a Third World New Left"

Kevin Y. Kim, “Against the ‘American Century,’ Toward a Third World New Left: The Case of Helen Mears,” Diplomatic History 43 (January 2019): 130–56.

Published in Diplomatic History, the official journal of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, this article examines the foreign policy ideas and politics of journalist Helen Mears, a little-known U.S. Cold War critic who fell from World War II-era national prominence as a result of her Cold War-era dissent against a rising U.S. national security state after World War II.

Paralleling and inspiring the New Left’s Third World turn, Mears’s dissent, drawing on her personal experiences in post-World War I Asia and shrewdly ethnographic awareness of state power, reveals the centrality of the U.S. state and U.S.-Asia relations in the evolution of the New and Third World Left. Ultimately, Mears’s ideological and sociopolitical experiences illuminate the New Left’s transnational dimensions over the “long 1960s” by foregrounding a rare American who bridged the Old and New Left as an unusually perceptive critic of U.S. foreign policy and the U.S. state. Challenging existing scholarship which largely depicts the postwar U.S. left as a provincial, domestically-oriented movement, this piece presents a timely, crucial study of Mears’s Third World-focused postwar politics and thought, revealing the genuine, strongly rooted internationalism which helped impel Sixties-era U.S. and global radicalism to this day.

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