This introductory chapter analyzes how conflicting impulses for loyalty and liberty shaped the politics of countersubversion between World War I and the McCarthy era. By examining the ways this intellectual problem manifested in various historical contexts, the chapter uncovers a history of fits and starts rather than simple, linear progression: waves of growth in political policing followed by undercurrents of reform. The contradictory effort to retain historic freedoms while simultaneously limiting them is what gave American countersubversion its distinctively American character: populist, legalistic, voluble, and partisan. The chapter also seeks to explain how a country with a long-standing hostility to the centralization of power, and a strong disposition to associate activist government with tyranny, gradually reconciled itself to a domestic security state.
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