Article

‘Gentlemen, you are Mad!’: Mutual Assured Destruction and Cold War Culture

Ivan T. Berend

in The Oxford Handbook of Postwar European History

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199560981
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199560981.013.0022

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 ‘Gentlemen, you are Mad!’: Mutual Assured Destruction and Cold War Culture

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • History
  • European History
  • Contemporary History (Post 1945)
  • Cold War

GO

Show Summary Details

Preview

In the year after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the historian and critic Lewis Mumford made a dramatic attack on the insanity of the nuclear age. In his article entitled ‘Gentlemen: You are Mad!’, Mumford said: ‘We in America are living among madmen. Madmen govern our affairs in the name of order and security’. According to Mumford, the modern superweapon society, for all its technological supremacy, was unable to recognise the looming disaster. People were sleepwalking towards the abyss of atomic war. The Cold War arms race created and served to maintain what Winston Churchill termed ‘the balance of terror’. By the end of the 1960s, both the United States and the Soviet Union had more than enough nuclear weapons to withstand a first strike and still be able to retaliate. This article explores how mutual assured destruction (MAD) was reflected and refracted in European culture and society from 1950 to 1985, and shows how film and fiction played a key role in highlighting the potential effects of MAD – a global nuclear holocaust.

Keywords: mutual assured destruction; Cold War; arms race; nuclear weapons; Lewis Mumford; United States; Soviet Union; film; fiction; culture

Article.  8492 words. 

Subjects: History ; European History ; Contemporary History (Post 1945) ; Cold War

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.