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Hajimu Masuda’s fresh interpretation of the Cold War from below is drawing wide attention

Historians in the News
tags: Cold War, Hajimu Masuda



Masuda Hajimu's research focuses on the modern history of Japan and East Asia, the history of U.S. foreign relations, and the social and global history of the Cold War. A former journalist for Mainichi Shinbun and the author of articles in Foreign Policy, Diplomatic History, Journal of Contemporary History, and the Journal of Cold War Studies, he has analyzed the evolving power of the people in the modern world, regardless of any political spectrum, with particular attention to intersections between war and society and politics and culture in the mid-20th century. His first book, Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar World, published by Harvard University Press in 2015, has been reviewed in 20 publications. Masuda received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2012, and currently is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the National University of Singapore.

As he explains in this excerpt he argues that the actual divides of the Cold War existed not necessarily between the Eastern and Western blocs but within each society.

What was the Cold War? Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar World (Harvard University Press, 2015) is an inquiry into the very nature and meanings of the conflict. It traces the Cold War’s metamorphosis during the Korean War from a diplomatic stand-off among policymakers to an ordinary people’s war at home through examining not only centers of policymaking, but seeming aftereffects of Cold War politics during the Korean War: The Red Purge in Japan, the White Terror in Taiwan, Suppression of counterrevolutionaries in China, the crackdown on “un-Filipino” activities in the Philippines, and McCarthyism in the United States.

Why did such similar patterns of domestic repression occur simultaneously around the world? Were there any similarities among these repressions? What would happen if we were to remove the Cold War lens? What were the implications of such a worldwide phenomenon?

While these events have usually been examined separately and are commonly considered aftereffects of the global Cold War, the book re-defines these events as parts of a global phenomenon of nativist backlashes—a sort of social conservative suppression—that operated to silence various local conflicts that surfaced in the aftermath of World War II. It shows how ordinary people throughout the world strove to silence disagreements and restore social order under the mantle of the global confrontation, revealing that the actual divides of the Cold War existed not necessarily between the Eastern and Western blocs but within each society, with each, in turn, requiring the perpetuation of such an imagined reality to maintain order and harmony at home.

Exploring such social functions and popular participation, Cold War Crucible suggests that the Cold War was more than an international and geopolitical confrontation between the Western and Eastern blocs. It was also a social mechanism for purity and order, which functioned in many parts of the world to tranquilize chaotic postwar and postcolonial situations through containing a multitude of social conflicts and culture wars at home. This article draws on and extends parts of Chapter 8 and 9 concerning Japan’s Red Purge and China’s Suppression of counterrevolutionaries.

Read entire article at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus


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