American Foreign Policy and the Utopian Imagination
An innovative look at the cultural roots of American foreign policy.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, American decision makers have been forced to confront anew questions about the role of the United States in world affairs. What are the responsibilities of the United States toward other countries? What are the appropriate uses and limitation of American power? And what, from an American point of view, would be the ideal shape of the imagined New World Order?
However U.S. policymakers may resolve such issues, their thinking will be influenced by assumptions deeply embedded in American culture. Some of those beliefs derive from the nation's distinctive history, geography, and resources. But others are rooted in what Susan M. Matarese calls the "national image"--a set of emotionally charged, relatively coherent ideas about the special qualities of the United States and its place in the world.
Building on a long tradition of scholarship that looks to works of literature for insights into national myths and symbols, Matarese examines a rich trove of utopian fiction written by Americans during the late nineteenth century. Such writings, she shows, provide a useful window into the popular imagination, revealing widely shared notions about the foreign policy of an idealized America--notions that have proven remarkably resilient in the twentieth century as well. Indeed, even in the post-Cold War era, one can find striking similarities between the foreign policy goals of the Bush and Clinton administrations and the dreams of America's utopian architects a century earlier.
The author concludes with an appeal for greater humility and realism in the formation of U.S. foreign policy, and a recognition of the limits of American power in what is likely to be an increasingly fluid, fragmented, and multipolar world.
"Matarese's primary scholarship is outstanding. This is by far the most thorough and comprehensive survey of attitudes about international relations expressed in American utopian literature. . . . It is a convincing historical presentation of the resiliency of popular American notions of 'nation' and 'international.'"—Kenneth Roemer, University of Texas, Arlington
"Matarese does an excellent job of showing how deep the utopian mindset is within American popular culture and how durable it has remained over time. Those who care about the ideas that drive Americans' sense of their place in the world will need to read this insightful study."—Joseph Lepgold, Georgetown University
"This book's important topic is one that has not been treated systematically by anyone else. . . . Matarese writes clearly and crisply, which should make her work accessible to nonspecialists and students alike."—Howard P. Segal, University of Maine, Orono
"This is a book with a telos, a guiding purpose or end in view, but it does not preach, trusting itself to make its case via demonstration."—Utopian Studies
"Matarese has performed a valuable service in surveying the literature of the once-and-future America. She has tracked down titles long forgotten . . . and identified themes that ran through the genre. . . . She provides a welcome overview of the work of some of the big thinkers of American history and diplomacy. Graduate students and nonspecialists will find her notes illuminating."—International Politics
"In this slender but substantial work, Matarese analyzes 212 utopian novels dating from the heyday of US utopian fiction writing (1888-1900) in search of the national image as related to the content of foreign policy. . . . Recommended, particularly to students of foreign policy, normative though, and political culture."—Choice