A critical theory of the "Rationality" of US foreign policy: The case of the American war in Vietnam

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Abstract

The attacks of September 11th, 2001, have increased the urgency of understanding the relationship between war-making and political culture. This essay uses Frankfurt School critical theory to analyze the development of the increasing "rationalization" of US foreign policy during the Cold War, focusing heuristically on the case of the US war in Vietnam. Particularly developing a Habermasian reading of these phenomena, the essay argues that, despite elite management and "steering" strategies, "subsystemic imperatives" are never completely "uncoupled" from the "cultural lifeworld." In the case of the US war in Vietnam, contradictions between elite political and economic instrumental rationalities and interests, and the broader American political culture and values, led to legitimation problems and loss of trust which have continued into the present period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-523
Number of pages15
JournalNew Political Science
Volume24
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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