McCarthyism: American Politics and the Paranoid Style

at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research - Online

Course Details
$315 3 seats left
Start Date:

Thu, Jul 23, 6:30pm - Aug 13, 9:30pm Eastern Time (4 sessions)

Purchase Options
Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 21 and older
Average Class Size: 12
Teacher: Jude Webre

Flexible Reschedule Policy: This provider has flexible, free rescheduling for any-in person workshop. Please see the cancellation policy for more details

What you'll learn in this history lesson:

Senator Joseph McCarthy’s name is enshrined in the American lexicon to symbolize a style of paranoia and fear that goes far beyond his original red-baiting. Just as the path to McCarthyism was in fact paved decades earlier—as conservative factions deployed both ideological and state violence in their early fights against organized labor—the McCarthyist manner of politics has found new acolytes in the Trump era. From references to “outside agitators” and foreign contamination to the belief that government agencies have been infiltrated by shadowy conspirators, one needn’t look very far to locate what historian Richard Hofstadter called the “paranoid style in American politics.”

In this course, we will explore the history of McCarthyism in its crucial Cold War context as well as its prehistory and subsequent legacy. How did the anti-Communism of the early 1950s intersect with other material and ideological shifts in American politics, from the extension of American empire abroad to Left purges at home? This class will approach the complex phenomenon of McCarthyism by giving attention to topics including: the rise of Marxism and the Communist Party in the U.S.; the onset of the Cold War and the vision of a liberal international order centered in Washington; the emergence of modern conservatism in response to the New Deal; and civil liberties as a defense against the national security state. Students will further examine the crucial events, methods, and figures of McCarthyism, including J. Edgar Hoover, Whittaker Chambers, the Rosenbergs, and Roy Cohn. What were important precursors to this style of politics (Haymarket, Sedition Acts, Palmer Raids, HUAC)? How did the purges of the early 1950s impact the development of the Left in America, foreclosing many radical options for decades? What is Trump’s ideological lineage, especially through his mentor Cohn? How has the end of the Cold War influenced the politics of empire and the available range of critiques? Readings will be drawn from primary sources (court cases, hearings, speeches, political essays) as well as secondary accounts by Richard Hofstadter, Melvyn Leffler, Ellen Schrecker, Corey Robin and others.

Remote Learning

This course is available for "remote" learning and will be available to anyone with access to an internet device with a microphone (this includes most models of computers, tablets). Classes will take place with a "Live" instructor at the date/times listed below.

Upon registration, the instructor will send along additional information about how to log-on and participate in the class.

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Refund Policy

Note: This provider has a temporary cancellation policy for COVID-19 related cancellations which is as follows:

We'll grant full course credit up to the start of the first class. After the first class we can offer 75% course credit; after the second 50%; and after the third 25%.


Original cancellation policy (non-COVID-19):

Upon request, we will refund the entire cost of a class up until 1 week before its start date. Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to a 75% refund. After the first class: 50%. After the second: 25%. No refunds will be given after the third class.

Start Dates (1)
Start Date Time Teacher # Sessions Price
6:30pm - 9:30pm Eastern Time Jude Webre 4 $315
This course consists of multiple sessions, view schedule for sessions.
Thu, Jul 30 6:30pm - 9:30pm Eastern Time Jude Webre
Thu, Aug 06 6:30pm - 9:30pm Eastern Time Jude Webre
Thu, Aug 13 6:30pm - 9:30pm Eastern Time Jude Webre

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School: Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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