Divided Memory and the “New Cold War” Thesis: The Rise and Decline of a Double-Edged Analogy

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Jeremy B. Straughn
Lisa C. Fein
Amelia Ayers


During the last decade, renewed tensions between Russia and the West have inspired efforts to conceptualize current international relations in terms of a “new Cold War” (NCW). In this article, we explore the historical origins of the NCW analogy, its rise and decline in public discourse, and the terms of recent debates over its appropriateness. Whereas historical analogies are often employed to foster consensus, the NCW analogy is shown to be peculiarly divisive and double-edged—driving a wedge not only between proponents and their critics, but also between rival factions of proponents. Broadly, we suggest that analogies become double-edged, and potentially explosive, when they rely on divided memories of an earlier era.

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