february, 2018

27feb5:00 pm- 6:00 pmStephen Wertheim


Event Details

How Americans Learned to Stop Worrying and Police the World

A talk by Stephen Wertheim

An optional dinner follows the talk. 
We will dine in Faculty House at 6:00pm. Meals, buffet style, cost $30. 

RSVP for dinner to slezkine@gmail.com
If you sign up for dinner, please be sure to attend. There is no need to register for the talk alone. 

Abstract: Some historians have long criticized the simplism of understanding U.S. foreign policy in terms of a struggle between internationalism and isolationism. Yet many historians continue to structure their narratives around these concepts — which remain rife in popular politics — partly because they have yet to ask how and to what effect Americans came to speak in these terms. In this talk, I sketch a conceptual history of the internationalism/isolationism dualism in U.S. political discourse. U.S. officials and intellectuals developed the concept of “isolationism†only in the 1930s, in order to caricature neutrality advocates who almost universally disclaimed such a labeling. Early in World War II, positioning themselves against the specter of “isolationism,†they determined that the United States should become the supreme political-military power in the world. From 1943 to 1945, they reclaimed the older concept of “internationalism,†now redefining it primarily against “isolationism†rather than against its previous opposite, power politics. The effect was to make America’s domination of power politics seem equivalent to, or a condition of, the transcendence of power politics — an elision that continues to legitimate U.S. global supremacy seven decades later.

Bio: Stephen Wertheim is a Lecturer in History at Birkbeck, University of London, and a Junior Research Fellow at King’s College, University of Cambridge. He specializes in the United States and world order since the late nineteenth century. His first book, forthcoming from Harvard University Press, examines the birth of U.S. global supremacy in World War II. His articles have appeared in Diplomatic HistoryJournal of Global History, and Journal of Genocide Research. Stephen held a postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton in 2015-16 and received his PhD from Columbia in 2015. He also writes essays and reviews for Foreign AffairsThe NationThe New York TimesThe Washington Post, and elsewhere 


(Tuesday) 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm EST


Faculty House, Columbia University

64 Morningside Drive