Be Very Afraid: The Cultural Response to Terror, Pandemics, Environmental Devastation, Nuclear Annihilation, and Other Threats

Robert Wuthnow, Author . Oxford Univ. $29.95 (294p) ISBN 978-0-19-973087-2

Wuthnow (American Mythos ) surveys the cultural response to the “prospect of devastation, even annihilation” in this provocative if uneven study. Relying on government reports, scientific studies, poll results, novels and films, and extensive interviews, the author examines the response of Americans to a series of apocalyptic threats since WWII: nuclear holocaust, pandemic influenza, terrorism, and global warming. He categorically dismisses suggestions that “denial and immobilization” have been the default responses of Americans facing disaster and argues instead that “we have responded quite aggressively.” The “great outpouring of cultural activity” in the face of these crises suggests our propensity to creatively search for solutions, not to be paralyzed by fear. But given their daunting scope and complexity, individual action has largely yielded to collective action, and these “crises have essentially become institutionalized” in large-scale organizations like the Department of Homeland Security. A solidly resourced, cogently analyzed, and persuasively argued brief. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 01/11/2010
Release date: 04/01/2010
Open Ebook - 305 pages - 978-0-19-974540-1
Paperback - 294 pages - 978-0-19-996402-4
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