A MUST READ: The End of Victory Culture

Cold War America and the Disillusioning of a Generation

In a substantial new afterword to his classic account of the collapse of American triumphalism in the wake of World War II, Tom Engelhardt carries that story into the twenty-first century. He explores how, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the younger George Bush headed for the Wild West (Osama bin Laden, “Wanted, Dead or Alive”); how his administration brought “victory culture” roaring back as part of its Global War on Terror and its rush to invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; and how, from its “Mission Accomplished” moment on, its various stories of triumph crashed and burned in that land.

This book is an autopsy of a once vital American myth: the cherished belief that triumph over a less-than-human enemy was in the American grain, a birthright and a national destiny. The End of Victory Culture is a compelling account of how America’s premier story – of inevitable triumph against all odds – underwent a dizzying decomposition from Hiroshima to Iraq. As Tom Engelhardt reconstructs a half-century of the crumbling borderlands of American consciousness, he also offers a striking portrait of a post-Vietnam, and then Iraq-mired nation living an afterlife amid the ruins of its national narrative.

Praise for the new edition of The End of Victory Culture:

Juan Cole at his Informed Comment website: “It is in some ways an answer to Frederick Jackson Turner’s conundrum– if the Frontier had been so central to American identity, what would happen now that (in the 1890s) the frontier was closing up? Engelhardt’s work has two implications. First, the frontier has just been projected abroad, and other ‘native’ peoples substituted for the ‘Injuns.’ And, second, that frontier gets old fast, too. (There is a reason we don’t watch shows like Gunsmoke in prime time any more, folks). So, the American Right takes refuge in myths like ‘we could have won in Vietnam’ and remembers its boyhood games when heroes and villains were so easy to tell apart. Engelhardt’s book is a must read.”

Reviews for the new edition of The End of Victory Culture:

Daniel Luban at the Inter-Press Service website: “Engelhardt’s account of events up through the mid-1990s remains as insightful as when it was first published….”

Praise for The End of Victory Culture:

The Boston Globe: “Sets out to trace the vicissitudes of America’s self-image since World War II as they showed up in popular culture: war toys, war comics, war reporting, and war films. It succeeds brilliantly…. Engelhardt’s prose is smart and smooth, and his book is social and cultural history of a high order.”

The New York Times: “Engelhardt is absorbing and provocative…. Everything he writes is of a satisfyingly congruent piece.”

Studs Terkel: “America Victorious has been our country’s postulate since its birth. Tom Engelhardt, with a burning clarity, recounts the end of this fantasy, from the split atom to Vietnam. It begins at our dawn’s early light and ends with the twilight’s last gleaming. It is as powerful as a Joe Louis jab to the solar plexus.”

Marilyn Young: “A brilliant meditation on the past half-century of the American national story…. Its account of the disintegration of a confident post-World War II national identity is a stunning achievement.”

John Dower: “An extraordinarily original work that places postwar American history in an entirely new perspective.”

Todd Gitlin: “In this tour de force, Tom Engelhardt tracks the American ‘war story’ along its declining arc from the Indian conquests to the ‘total television’ of the Gulf War…. Full of brilliancies, this is one of those rare books that can change the way we see.”

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