Review of The Contours of America's Cold War by Society and Space

By Neil Smith
Society and Space - Environment and Planning D

Farish_contours coverThe geography of the Cold War is widely seen as a quite polarized affair between a capitalist and socialist world, and despite its simplicity this cliché has some merit: even if by the early 1950s a certain recoil from the Cold War, whether at the behest of United Nations global liberalism or socialist and anti-colonial revulsion, recognized a Third World complicating the us/them lexicon of newspaper headlines, the cliché nonetheless captures a very real bifurcation of global geographies.  There was much more to Cold War spatiality than this bipartite cartography of course, but compared to the worlds that both preceded and succeeded it, this simplification captures something very real. Cold War geographies birthed and nursed their own intricate conundra. So how was the dichotomous spatial complexity of that time and place – especially place – organized into existence?

At least from the US side of things, that is the question that Matt Farish’s book seeks to answer.  Central to his focus is the social nexus of geography and militarism, and crucial to that is an effort to understand the relationship between geography as made and geography as conceived.  The central dilemma, although Farish might put it slightly differently, is this: even in the midst of making complicated global and local geographies, American capitalism bred a certain contempt for the geographical imagination, effecting a lost intellectual geography even as it created its own impoverished Cold War geography in popular American imaginations.

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