End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War

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When Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Democratic party won a landslide victory in the 1936 elections, the way seemed open for the New Deal to complete the restructuring of American government it had begun in 1933. But, as Alan Brinkley makes clear, no sooner were the votes counted than the New Deal began to encounter a series of crippling political and economic problems that stalled its agenda and forced an agonizing reappraisal of the liberal ideas that had shaped it - a reappraisal still in progress when the United States entered World War II. The wartime experience helped complete the transformation of New Deal liberalism. It muted Washington's hostility to the corporate world and diminished liberal faith in the capacity of government to reform capitalism. But it also helped legitimize Keynesian fiscal policies, reinforce commitments to social welfare, and create broad support for "full employment" as the centerpiece of postwar liberal hopes. By the end of the war, New Deal liberalism had transformed itself and assumed its modern form - a form that is faring much less well today than almost anyone would have imagined a generation ago. The End of Reform is a study of ideas and of the people who shaped them: Franklin Roosevelt, Henry Wallace, Harold Ickes, Henry Morgenthau, Jesse Jones, Tommy Corcoran, Leon Henderson, Marriner Eccles, Thurman Arnold, Alvin Hansen. It chronicles a critical moment in the history of modern American politics, and it speculates that the New Deal's retreat from issues of wealth, class, and economic power has contributed to present-day liberalism's travails.

Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal was a turning point in the role of the federal government and in the expectations of American citizens. Now, Alan Brinkley, whose Voices of Protest won the American Book Award for History, shows how New Deal liberalism was transformed into a new beast during and after World War II--and why it is faring so poorly in the 1990s.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A central tenet of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, at least through 1937, was the belief that government's mission is to counterbalance the structural flaws and inequalities of modern industrial capitalism. But in FDR's second term, argues Columbia professor of American history Brinkley (Voices of Protest), this goal was abandoned, and after 1945 liberals turned away from the early New Deal's experiments in statist planning and antimonopoly crusades. Instead, a new liberalism that has since dominated much of American political life embraced the belief that the key to a successful society is economic growth through high consumption. Brinkley identifies the hallmarks of this new liberalism as commitment to a compensatory welfare system, Keynesian fiscal policies for increasing public spending and a ``rights-based'' emphasis on personal liberties and entitlements for various groups. The author provides a revealing look at FDR's inner circle, weighing its members' rhetoric against their accomplishments and against the ideological attenuation of New Deal philosophy. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Brinkley's latest book complements his earlier Voices of Protest (LJ 4/1/82), a celebrated study of popular 1930s movements led by Huey Long and Father Coughlin. As in Voices, Brinkley is concerned with a lost tradition in American reform, but now he examines the altogether different milieu of the economists and officials who shaped federal economic policy during the latter period of the New Deal and World War II. This was a period, he argues, when liberals abandoned any real interest in restructuring U.S. political economy as liberalism gave up its quarrel with concentrated economic power and instead embraced a more constructed concept of reform based upon Keynesian ideas and attention to consumption rather than production. This is a major reinterpretation of the New Deal; a graceful, careful, and accessible study of difficult terrain in economic history and a timely historical backdrop to the position of liberalism in the 1990s. This book will receive wide attention among historians and beyond and should be an automatic purchase for all academic and most public libraries.-Robert F. Nardini, North Chichester, N.H.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679753148
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/1996
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 371
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Brinkley is a professor of American History at Columbia University. His previous books include Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression, which won the American Book Award for History, and The Unfinished Nation: A Concise History of the American People. His essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in the American Historical Review, the Journal of American History, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, The New Republic, and other publications. He lives with his wife and daughter in New York City.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Concept of New Deal Liberalism 3
1 The Crisis of New Deal Liberalism 15
2 "An Ordered Economic World" 31
3 The "New Dealers" and the Regulatory Impulse 48
4 Spending and Consumption 65
5 The Struggle for a Program 86
6 The Anti-monopoly Moment 106
7 Liberals Embattled 137
8 Mobilizing for War 175
9 The New Unionism and the New Liberalism 201
10 Planning for Full Employment 227
Epilogue: The Reconstruction of New Deal Liberalism 265
Archival Sources 273
Notes 277
Index 361
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