The Cold War as Comparative Political Thought

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The aim of this article is to provide a programmatic statement for a research agenda in the comparative political thought of the Cold War. As an innovative methodology for the study of the political ideas, I contend that comparative political theory connects up very well with the ways in which Cold War historians have come to frame their questions: systematically applying its principles therefore offers an interesting opportunity to take the recent scholarship forward. The first section reviews the treatment of ideas across phases of the Cold War historiography, and proposes that an approach styled on comparative political theory potentially brings out two general qualities of Cold War ideas, which are often missed: what I call their granularity and embeddedness. At the same time some prospects are raised for reconciling the political and cultural histories of the Cold War. The second section focuses on the aspect of comparison, and situates the research programme in the context of the recent trend towards the study of international history. The third section is the most constructive. An indicative series of projects is offered which such a programme might pursue. The concept of the Cold War ‘thought-practice’ is proposed as the most promising unit of analysis by which the figure of the political theorist might contribute to the interpretation of Cold War history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-408
Number of pages24
JournalCold War History
Issue number4
Early online date28 Feb 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Feb 2018


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