Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Davis

UC Davis Previously Published Works bannerUC Davis

Anything but Inevitable: How the Marshall Plan Became Possible


Historians typically explain the Marshall Plan (1948–52) as an effect of a bipartisan embrace of liberal internationalism, which became the dominant ideology of US foreign policy. However, predominant accounts downplay interpretive contention, historical contingencies, and counterfactual possibilities that are very much in evidence. There was no bipartisan liberal internationalist consensus immediately after World War II; indeed, there were no “liberal internationalists” until 1947. The present analysis identifies two interconnected processes behind the Plan: the emergence of a new kind of political actor, the credibly anti-Communist New Deal liberal, and the coalescence of an unlikely coalition of Trumanites, New Dealers, and congressional conservatives. Together, these processes enabled the passage of a large-scale, Keynesian-style spending initiative that excluded Russia, despite the electoral weakness of New Dealers, and the consolidation of liberal internationalist ideology in American foreign policy—with significance for today's era of renewed great power competition.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View