Land of Tomorrow: The Postwar Novel and the Rise of the New Conservative Movement Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Mangrum, Benjamin
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • This dissertation charts a cultural history of the decline of the New Deal regulatory state and the rise of American income inequality through novels published between 1945 and 1968. While scholars such as Thomas Piketty, Paul Pierson, and Jacob Hacker have shown that political mechanisms during the 1970s eroded regulations on the capitalist economy, I argue that these shifts in policy developed from intellectual crises facing the American welfare state during the immediate postwar decades. I chart this political history through novels by Norman Mailer, Vladimir Nabokov, Ralph Ellison, Patricia Highsmith, and Walker Percy, who helped to define public animus toward the New Deal and gave intellectual legitimacy to an emerging political culture opposed to a progressive political agenda. These four authors are particularly relevant because they engage intellectual movements and historical phenomena that, I argue, contributed to the unraveling of New Deal reform: namely, the circulation of existentialist notions of authenticity and individual choice, which opposed expansive federal power; the association of progressive politics with totalitarianism; a growing demand among intellectuals for arenas of civil society autonomous from a managerial state; and the rise of personal psychology, rather than sociology, as an explanatory template for everyday life. By augmenting the public purchase of these trends, each author helped to shape a postwar culture that hastened the political death of the New Deal.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Taylor, Matthew
  • Dore, Florence
  • Downing, Eric
  • McGowan, John
  • McCann, Sean
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2015
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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