Master of Arts
Date of Defense
Peter J. Acsay, PhD.
British spy fiction author John le Carré inspired Cultural Détente, a movement in American popular culture which banished the simplicities of the 1950’s and replaced it with a relaxation of tensions from 1960-1965. Cultural Détente manifested from within Western liberal, democratic society after the strict conformities of the 1950s. After the dissipation of McCarthyism and the anti-Communist crusaders, the public was ready to embrace a ‘thaw’ in tensions. Even with all of the evidence already in place, there has yet to be any historical evaluation of a 1960s Cultural Détente that anticipated and made possible the détente of Richard Nixon. It was an attitude, a break from accepting the political and social status quo from the early Cold War; in which the Soviets had been the monolithic, evil, powerful and threatening menace. People began to question the reflexive anti-communism of the period. Not quite the New Left and Counterculture movements of the mid to late-1960s, Cultural Détente bridged the gap between the initial-1950s conservative policies to the liberal and radical reforms in the mid-1960s. John le Carré was an artistic leader of Cultural Détente, using the popular spy fiction medium to critique the contemporary state of the Cold War and the methods, tactics, and attitudes of the West. He saw great hypocrisy in the Western governments’ political assertions, especially the extended power of the United States. Expanding power meant excesses of power, which led to a deep mistrust of governing authorities. Becoming anti-Establishment, a hallmark of Cultural Détente, le Carré and a vast range of Western citizens no longer trusted that the ‘Establishment’ held society’s best interest in mind. Whereas the 1950s message had been that the government and its institutions were there to uphold and protect Western values and virtues, by 1960 it no longer held much weight among some creative artists, who found a ready audience in the middle brow public. The anti-Establishment view quickly spread through the private sphere, bringing momentum to Cultural Détente and critiques like John le Carré’s.
Huesing, Leah Nicole, "Cultural Detente: John le Carré from the Cold to the Thaw" (2016). Theses. 168.