Just as some general housekeeping, there were a few things which I noticed about this book that were far cries from the two general histories which we read. The first is Whitfield’s interchanging of a few terms, which I found to be problematic. On multiple occasions, Whitfield would switch between using the Soviet Union and Stalinist Russia, which is not only odd but incorrect because the Soviet Union is the proper name to use there. Also, on page 3 of my volume, he makes distinctions as to what he is going to be referring to Communists as (they thought of themselves as ‘progressives’ but he was also going to be calling them ‘stalinists’ because “that is precisely what they were.”) This was a major issue for me throughout the book because it was not just Communists in the Soviet Union (whom he barely touched on) but also Communists in Western Europe and the United States, and to call them “Stalinists” is a distinction that does not make any sense. The book is also titled The Culture of the Cold War and yet it really only covers the culture of the 1950s (and some into the 1960s) in the United States, even though I have the second edition of the text, which was published in 1996. It felt odd that a book would make the claim to cover the culture of an era, and yet only discuss about a third of that era.

The ways that industry, military, and government were all intertwined during the 1950s is incredibly interesting, especially in how that all was a major player in shaping much of the culture and thinking during the Cold War. When Whitfield discusses the specifics of the California economy between 1947 and 1957, the ramifications of defense spending are very astonishing. Cities such as San Diego and Los Angeles getting more than half of their gainful employment from defense contracts of some sort, is very striking, particularly since this defense spending not only led to more jobs for more people, but then ultimately an influx of cash into the economy, which ultimately created the boom of the 1950s. Moreover, the suggestion that Khrushchev may not have been aware of how similar the systems of funneling money and jobs into the economy was in the Soviet Union and the United States, speaks precisely to earlier arguments made about how, in many ways, the United States was becoming much like the place it was trying to distance itself from (implementation of political tests, censorship in print and the arts, defense and government spending as a major stimulus to the economy). Finally, the fact that Ronald Reagan was a good-will ambassador for GE for an eight year period, is incredibly interesting, because, I think, it speaks to the influence that GE really has had as a tech company, as well as an institute of corporate research. Ronald Reagan using General Electric as a means to perfect his foreign policy style as well as his desire to see a flourishing private sector, while working for a corporation which relied heavily on government contracts during and after World War II, is incredibly interesting.

I was incredibly excited at the mention of corporate films on page 131, especially The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit as I both read the book and watched the film this summer. Whitfield is right in his assertion that the general mood toward corporate America has vastly changed moving into the 1950s, and film helps to solidify these changes. With the number of white-collar jobs, and white men filling those jobs, growing, there is an overall attitude toward corporate men that changes. No longer are men in management positions depicted solely as evil and lovers of money, though those tropes do still exist in film, instead films move to show more dissatisfaction with finding meaning in doing work that is much less physical, and much less independent, while at the same time working hard to never directly question or criticize this new system. Instead, tensions at home, with families (and especially with wives) are seen as the new antagonists. Gone is the harping and greedy boss, replaced by a wife who is harder to keep complacent in the home. While all of the corporate fiction which I have read so far has been about the trials of men in these new white-collar jobs, the undercurrents of the positions of women flow beneath each of these stories in very interesting ways, and while Whitfield spent very little time discussing corporate films and fiction, discussing it mainly in conjunction with Atlas Shrugged it would seem to be a bigger part of Cold War culture than he takes the time to examine.