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In a work of sweeping scope and luminous detail, Elizabeth Borgwardt describes how a cadre of World War II American planners inaugurated the ideas and institutions that underlie our modern international human rights regime. Borgwardt finds the key in the 1941 Atlantic Charter and its Anglo-American vision of "war and peace aims." In attempting to globalize what U.S. planner In a work of sweeping scope and luminous detail, Elizabeth Borgwardt describes how a cadre of World War II American planners inaugurated the ideas and institutions that underlie our modern international human rights regime. Borgwardt finds the key in the 1941 Atlantic Charter and its Anglo-American vision of "war and peace aims." In attempting to globalize what U.S. planners heralded as domestic New Deal ideas about security, the ideology of the Atlantic Charter--buttressed by FDR's "Four Freedoms" and the legacies of World War I--redefined human rights and America's vision for the world. Three sets of international negotiations brought the Atlantic Charter blueprint to life--Bretton Woods, the United Nations, and the Nuremberg trials. These new institutions set up mechanisms to stabilize the international economy, promote collective security, and implement new thinking about international justice. The design of these institutions served as a concrete articulation of U.S. national interests, even as they emphasized the importance of working with allies to achieve common goals. The American architects of these charters were attempting to redefine the idea of security in the international sphere. To varying degrees, these institutions and the debates surrounding them set the foundations for the world we know today. By analyzing the interaction of ideas, individuals, and institutions that transformed American foreign policy--and Americans' view of themselves--Borgwardt illuminates the broader history of modern human rights, trade and the global economy, collective security, and international law. This book captures a lost vision of the American role in the world.


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In a work of sweeping scope and luminous detail, Elizabeth Borgwardt describes how a cadre of World War II American planners inaugurated the ideas and institutions that underlie our modern international human rights regime. Borgwardt finds the key in the 1941 Atlantic Charter and its Anglo-American vision of "war and peace aims." In attempting to globalize what U.S. planner In a work of sweeping scope and luminous detail, Elizabeth Borgwardt describes how a cadre of World War II American planners inaugurated the ideas and institutions that underlie our modern international human rights regime. Borgwardt finds the key in the 1941 Atlantic Charter and its Anglo-American vision of "war and peace aims." In attempting to globalize what U.S. planners heralded as domestic New Deal ideas about security, the ideology of the Atlantic Charter--buttressed by FDR's "Four Freedoms" and the legacies of World War I--redefined human rights and America's vision for the world. Three sets of international negotiations brought the Atlantic Charter blueprint to life--Bretton Woods, the United Nations, and the Nuremberg trials. These new institutions set up mechanisms to stabilize the international economy, promote collective security, and implement new thinking about international justice. The design of these institutions served as a concrete articulation of U.S. national interests, even as they emphasized the importance of working with allies to achieve common goals. The American architects of these charters were attempting to redefine the idea of security in the international sphere. To varying degrees, these institutions and the debates surrounding them set the foundations for the world we know today. By analyzing the interaction of ideas, individuals, and institutions that transformed American foreign policy--and Americans' view of themselves--Borgwardt illuminates the broader history of modern human rights, trade and the global economy, collective security, and international law. This book captures a lost vision of the American role in the world.

30 review for A New Deal for the World: America's Vision for Human Rights

  1. 5 out of 5

    Billy

    In A New Deal for the World, University of Utah historian Elizabeth Borgwardt argues that the joint geo-political plans of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, and their respective representatives, were a logical extension of FDR’s New Deal policies. She does so by critically reexamining the political rhetoric of the early 1940s. Furthermore, she argues that proponents of New Deal legislation envisioned a global implementation of their national policies, specifically in regards to social In A New Deal for the World, University of Utah historian Elizabeth Borgwardt argues that the joint geo-political plans of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, and their respective representatives, were a logical extension of FDR’s New Deal policies. She does so by critically reexamining the political rhetoric of the early 1940s. Furthermore, she argues that proponents of New Deal legislation envisioned a global implementation of their national policies, specifically in regards to social welfare and humanitarianism. According to Borgwardt, a socially-just post-World War II globe would be one where economic justice and political liberalism reigned supreme. Furthermore, that this vision was an explicit goal of “New Dealers” even before the war ended. Borgwardt’s study revolves around three crucial events. First, the August 1941 first meeting between FDR and Churchill and the resulting first discussions that would come to be known as the “Atlantic Charter.” Second, the July 1944 Bretton Woods conference and the resulting post-war global Keynesian economic policies. Finally, the August 1945 Nuremberg trials and their symbolic persecution of war criminals. In each of these seminal events, Borgwardt sees the rhetoric of these events as representing a changing zeitgeist. Gone would be the inter-war politics of isolationism and economic autarky. New Dealers instead pushed for a humanitarian, pro-management style of global liberalism. She argues that it was New Dealers who fought the political battles necessary to envision and construct a new, more socially and economically-just world based on multilateral intervention. Borgwardt’s examination of the construction of the Atlantic Charter sets the tone for the book. She sees the meeting between FDR and Churchill as fundamental to understanding how New Dealers began to globalize their vision of a post-war world. This meeting of national leaders provided an unprecedented opportunity to bridge the gap between national boundaries and forge a nascent multilateralism. By agreeing on (admittedly informal) policies to rebuild a post-war world, the New Deal became international, signaling the death knell for a half-century of hyper-nationalism. Put another way, the management style of the New Deal was being imposed on a global scale. This argument is logical in principal, but the lack of a drawn up document (at least at first) for this “Atlantic Charter” makes it a difficult one to prove. To back her arguments, Borgwardt focuses on the rhetoric of the political characters involved. Such an approach is necessary as the Atlantic Charter began as a loosely constructed agreement between two political leaders, nothing more. But for Borgwardt, the exchanges between these two leaders meant an implicit acceptance of the Atlantic Charter and the “four freedoms.” It was only a matter of time before these ideas became a solidified, coherent statement to guide the post-war world. In sum, the Atlantic Charter did not become, but began as a concrete set of ideas meant to introduce the world to internationalism. But this shift in zeitgeist was seldom explicit or traceable, even via archival rhetoric. Hence, the book’s continual focus on the rich and arguably intentional symbolism of the New Deal era. To Borgwardt, symbols do matter. For example, because the Atlantic Charter did not begin as a strict set of laws laid to parchment, uncertainty regarding its validity arose from politicians and journalists alike. Recognizing the need for tangible representations, Roosevelt has a physical document constructed for public viewing. In short, what begins as an intangible set of proposals becomes a strict set of written decrees, and this symbolic agreement ultimately becomes writ to emphasize and solidify its importance. The examples of symbolism continue with the Bretton Woods conference. For this chapter, Borgwardt again uses two compelling historical figures for narrative polarization: the eminent British economist John Maynard Keynes and his American counterpart Harry “Dexter” White. During their tenuous working relationship, these two did not share the effortless friendship that befell FDR and Churchill. Instead, one sees the constant arguments between the high minded Keynes and the less astute White. Nevertheless, the symbolism of this meeting holds meaning, especially in light of the highly technical economics discussed during these talks escaped the American public (and, it seems at times, White). Such symbolism is even more obvious during the Nuremberg trials. While the punishment of Nazi war criminals may have been a forgone conclusion for much of the world, the symbolic trials and ensuing justice handed down by a multilateral body politic ushered in a new era of international politics represented by the introduction of crimes against humanity. This trial caps the unifying theme of symbolism throughout the book: that each event represents a symbolic shift away from nationalism and towards internationalism and multilateralism. Borgwardt's methodology is decidedly traditional (i.e. political in nature). The historical characters involved are big names: FDR, Churchill, Keynes and White; the subject matter is political in nature. Borgwardt utilizes a captivating narrative that gives the reader familiar footing, a reliable approach for finding important points in the otherwise complex world of foreign policy. For example, regarding the August 10th 1941 meeting of FDR and Churchill, Borgwardt analyzes the unwritten, informal discussion between these two leaders and how their idealized visions of a post-Fascist world, however vague, shared western ideas of free trade and social justice. Left to an ideological explanation, this argument would lose steam; the reader interest. For the characters involved, anecdotal quips are given perhaps greater weight than necessary outside the context of New Deal idealism. Such an approach to analyzing rhetoric makes Borgwardt’s book somewhat neo-diplomatic in its methodology. Diplomatic History purists will enjoy the fixation on these compelling historical figures, while proponents of hybridized-diplomatic history will endorse the use of rhetorical and cultural analysis. Yet, for its admittedly hybrid of methodologies, there is no real deconstruction of texts or rhetorical exchanges, and the cultural milieu upon which Borgwardt bases her analysis never leaves the idealized paradigm of the New Deal, closing the door to potentially more innovative types of analysis. Such an approach also neglects other historical approaches, and this book will undoubtedly arouse criticisms from those disposed to alternate historical methodologies. Neo-Marxist scholars, world-systems historians and those interested in dependency theory will not simply find fault in this overtly celebratory history, but will likely take offense to the usually requisite (however brief) admission of these methodologies and their importance. The Cold War’s absence from this examination is a tidy omission for her New Deal-centric argument, Cold War historians are sure to take notice. Finally, for economic historians, the glossing over of the seminal Bretton Woods conference will leave much to be desired in the way of analysis and implication. Larger methodologies aside, Borgwardt research method is nonetheless impressive. While she relies on an unusual number of secondary sources for a monograph focused on political history, with a 30 page bibliography it is hard to argue for a lack of depth in her research. Yet Borgwardt’s constant infusion of anecdotal remarks not only by historical actors but by historians themselves has a polarizing effect: on the one hand, readers may enjoy how inclusions humanize the larger than life characters involved in this study and adds depth to their historical relevance. Conversely, it also sometimes seems as if though Borgwardt picks and chooses choice selections for her argument’s sake. This approach does not detract from the overarching argument per se, but the reliance on this overwhelming number of historians makes A New Deal for the World read like a historiography at times and not a work of original insight. Regardless of how readers take to this quasi-historiographic approach, they should expect very few pages that neglect a quote not from the historical actors involved but from historians. Such verbatim analysis might have been better utilized via paraphrases, interjections and footnotes. This reliance on quips by secondary sources also leaves something to be desired in the way of contextual analysis. Not surprisingly one of the book’s main omissions is that of context. Looking at the New Deal as a snapshot in time leaves out important comparisons, and other historians will be quick to point this out. The strength in historical analysis is often in the findings of parallels, sometimes comparing the past to the present. It is not as if Borgwardt is left without opportunity to do so. There are obvious parallels between the idealism of the Wilson administration and FDR’s four freedoms. Also, the crisis of modernity that arose from the first shots of WWI met a second examination with the discovery of the holocaust. This is not to say that such a history can (or should) include each and every side of an argument. But it is important to note that for a book that emphasizes the culture of the New Deal, that the possible misgivings of its proponents—many of whom lived though other world wars and a great depression—might have added more depth to this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Justin Michael James Dell

    This is a very informative book. It places a Weberian emphasis on the importance of ideas to the unfolding of history. Borwardt's writing style makes her text and arguments accessible to a wide readership. Students of international relations and global governance will find the treasure trove of information in this text particularly useful, and its argument thought-provoking. The thrust of Borgwardt's thesis is that, for a brief period in the 1940s, the world had a "multilateralist moment" in whi This is a very informative book. It places a Weberian emphasis on the importance of ideas to the unfolding of history. Borwardt's writing style makes her text and arguments accessible to a wide readership. Students of international relations and global governance will find the treasure trove of information in this text particularly useful, and its argument thought-provoking. The thrust of Borgwardt's thesis is that, for a brief period in the 1940s, the world had a "multilateralist moment" in which there was an outpouring of enthusiasm, especially in the United States, for multilateralism, conditioned by the prominence of the ideology of Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal". She contends that the trauma of the Great Depression had convinced sufficiently large numbers of Americans that governmental institutions had a role to play in upholding the rights - including the economic rights - of individuals and that this lesson was extrapolated to the international context by the onset of the Second World War. If institutional intervention at home was necessary to maintain domestic security (especially from the prospect of revolutionary upheaval), so the reasoning went, institutional intervention abroad was necessary to maintain international order. This zeitgeist was crystallized in the Atlantic Charter, a press communique jointly released by President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill after their first face-to-face meeting in August 1941, before the United States had entered World War Two. The document presented these leaders' vision for a postwar order grounded in Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms": freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. This charter eventually served as the standard under which the United Nations - as the wartime alliance of Western democracies was soon called - crusaded against fascism. Borgwardt argues that the Four Freedoms and the Atlantic Charter used such unprecedentedly individualistic language that they reoriented international diplomacy from a being a strictly state-to-state arrangement to one that focused on the human person as the referent and laid the groundwork for the modern-day human rights regime. This was not all the result of authorial intent. Much like the Declaration of Independence in the United States was a non-legislative document that inspired a sea-change in thinking an a reorientation of values, the Atlantic Charter left an indelible mark on future international relations. It led to a Common Law-style evolving body of legislation and modes of thought. New Deal-style confidence in institutional solutions and concern for individual welfare synthesized to promote the creation of the Bretton Woods Keynesian economic system, the United Nations system of collective security, and the Nuremberg Charter on international justice and human rights. The New Deal faith that a measure of economic security for others meant security for oneself translated into initiatives like the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after the devastation of the Second World War and the rejection of the so-called Morganthau Plan to de-industrialize Germany, as some advocated. Borgwardt notes that the onset of the Cold War quickly cooled enthusiasm for these multilateral institutions as the United States and the Soviet Union quickly retreated into regionalism. Furthermore, 'freedom from want' - or economic freedom for the individual - soon acquired the flavour of Marxism in the mouths of many Americans with the rise of McCarthyism; freedom from want was eventually subsumed into free-marketism, which was something of a departure from the Rooseveltian ideal (although, Borwardt suggests, the New Deal was always conceived as an attempt to save capitalism from its own excesses, not to dismantle it). Although the end of the Cold War produced renewed interest in the one-world vision of multilateralism, especially as Globalization appeared to present both opportunities and challenges for global governance, the onset of the War on Terror in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks prompted was Borgwardt sees as a lamentable U.S. regression into unilateralism coupled with a retreat from civil liberties and flouting of human rights (instantiated by detainments of terrorists in Guantanamo and the Abu Ghraib torture scandal - indeed, the entire invasion of Iraq). For Borgwardt, human rights and multilateralism are two sides of the same coin.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    This is a fascinating history of New Deal ideals on the international stage post–World War II, and gives one hope that the world, and the United States in particular, will return to such ambitious multilateralist principles. “The force of compelling ideas helps to determine which tracks the engine of history travels along, even if they do not actually serve as the coal that fires the engine of historical change.” Oh yeah, and I laughed out loud countless times at stuff like Hermann Goering refusin This is a fascinating history of New Deal ideals on the international stage post–World War II, and gives one hope that the world, and the United States in particular, will return to such ambitious multilateralist principles. “The force of compelling ideas helps to determine which tracks the engine of history travels along, even if they do not actually serve as the coal that fires the engine of historical change.” Oh yeah, and I laughed out loud countless times at stuff like Hermann Goering refusing to give up his “jeweled marshal's baton, inlaid with twenty golden eagles,” and being so put off that it was forcibly taken from him that he wrote two letters (which were ignored) to General Eisenhower. Also hilarious: The U.S. Office of War Information telling Normal Rockwell that his painting style was more suitable for a calisthenics manual than popularizing FDR's Four Freedoms (Rockwell painted them anyway, to great success).

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

    Review Pending.

  5. 4 out of 5

    behemothing

    Turns out John Maynard Keynes was pretty funny.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ben Brandenburg

    Too exceptionalist.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  8. 4 out of 5

    Madison Lo

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kate

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nichelle

  11. 4 out of 5

    Audra

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Owens

  13. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  14. 5 out of 5

    Billy

  15. 4 out of 5

    Blair

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey Matson

  18. 5 out of 5

    Abby

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

  20. 4 out of 5

    James Hill Welborn III

  21. 4 out of 5

    Peter

  22. 4 out of 5

    Erica

  23. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Monahan

  24. 5 out of 5

    Blake

  25. 4 out of 5

    Katarina Schultz

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michael Taylor

  28. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa de los Reyes

  29. 5 out of 5

    Espngirl

  30. 4 out of 5

    Megan

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