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New Left Review 85, January-February 2014

Dylan Riley


Is there anything new to be said about the New Deal? As Ira Katznelson observes at the beginning of Fear Itself, ‘we possess hundreds of thematic histories, countless studies of public affairs and abundant biographies of key persons during this time of great historical density’; so ‘why present another portrait?’, he asks. [1] Ira Katznelson, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time, Liveright: New York 2013, $29.95, hardback 706 pp, 978 0 87140 450 3 Part of the answer lies in a resurgence of interest in the 1930s in the us—especially among left-liberal scholars who, in search of Depression-era lessons for the present, are constantly drawn to comparisons between Obama and Roosevelt (usually unflattering to the former). Katznelson himself finds justification in a more refined source, citing Henry James’s 1882 essay on Venice: although the city has been ‘painted and described many thousands of times’, wrote James, ‘it is not forbidden to speak of familiar things’ when a writer ‘is himself in love with his theme’.

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Dylan Riley, ‘Southern Questions’, NLR 85: £3

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