Kevin Kim publishes “Against the ‘American Century,’ Toward a Third World New Left: The Case of Helen Mears”


IAS faculty member Kevin Y. Kim has published an article in Diplomatic History, the official journal of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, published by Oxford University Press. Titled “Against the ‘American Century,’ Toward a Third World New Left: The Case of Helen Mears,” Kim’s article examines the foreign policy ideas and politics of journalist Helen Mears, a little-known U.S. Cold War critic who fell from World War II-era national prominence as a result of her Cold War-era dissent against a rising U.S. national security state after World War II.

Inspiring the New Left’s Third World turn, Mears’s dissent, drawing on her longtime personal experiences in post-World War I Asia and shrewdly ethnographic awareness of state power, reveals the centrality of the U.S. state and U.S.-Asia relations in the evolution of the U.S.-based New Left. As Kim argues, Mears’s ideological and sociopolitical experiences illuminate the New Left’s transnational dimensions over the “long 1960s” by foregrounding a rare American who bridged the Old and New Left as an unusually perceptive critic of U.S. foreign policy and the U.S. state. Challenging existing scholarship which largely depicts the postwar U.S. left as a provincial, domestically-oriented movement, Kim’s article presents a timely, crucial study of Mears’s Third World-focused postwar politics and thought to illuminate the genuine, strongly rooted internationalism which helped impel Sixties-era U.S. and global radicalism to this day.