More: The Politics of Economic Growth in Postwar America

More: The Politics of Economic Growth in Postwar America

by Robert M. Collins

View All Available Formats & Editions

James Carville famously reminded Bill Clinton throughout 1992 that "it's the economy, stupid." Yet, for the last forty years, historians of modern America have ignored the economy to focus on cultural, social, and political themes, from the birth of modern feminism to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now a scholar has stepped forward to place the economy back


James Carville famously reminded Bill Clinton throughout 1992 that "it's the economy, stupid." Yet, for the last forty years, historians of modern America have ignored the economy to focus on cultural, social, and political themes, from the birth of modern feminism to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now a scholar has stepped forward to place the economy back in its rightful place, at the center of his historical narrative.
In More, Robert M. Collins reexamines the history of the United States from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, focusing on the federal government's determined pursuit of economic growth. After tracing the emergence of growth as a priority during FDR's presidency, Collins explores the record of successive administrations, highlighting both their success in fostering growth and its partisan uses. Collins reveals that the obsession with growth appears not only as a matter of policy, but as an expression of Cold War ideology—both a means to pay for the arms build-up and proof of the superiority of the United States' market economy. But under Johnson, this enthusiasm sparked a crisis: spending on Vietnam unleashed runaway inflation, while the nation struggled with the moral consequences of its prosperity, reflected in books such as John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. More continues up to the end of the 1990s, as Collins explains the real impact of Reagan's policies and astutely assesses Clinton's "disciplined growthmanship," which combined deficit reduction and a relaxed but watchful monetary policy by the Federal Reserve.
Writing with eloquence and analytical clarity, Robert M. Collins offers a startlingly new framework for understanding the history of postwar America.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Americans have not always embraced economic growth, nor has the U.S. economy grown consistently through the 20th century. But overall, Collins's wonderfully illuminating, engrossing analysis illustrates, through the century there was a move toward endorsing increasingly exuberant expansion. Looking at history through the lens of economic growth, Collins puts postwar American society in a whole new perspective. A professor of history at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Collins tells the story of American economic growth as it waxed and waned and waxed again from the New Deal through the Clinton administration. Early on, he argues, many Americans questioned whether growth was possible or even desirable in a mature capitalist economy. WWII, however, set the country's economic engine in motion, and after WWII, "growthmanship" gained speed, reaching an apex in Kennedy and Johnson's "growth liberalism." Economic expansion backslid between 1973 and 1985, as heavy government investment in Vietnam and the Great Society programs led to rapid inflation; price stability took priority. Nixon's "progressive conservativism" unsuccessfully tried to rekindle enthusiasm for robust economic growth by linking it to streamlined government and the moral rejuvenation of America. In the mid-1980s, Reagan's supply-side tactics succeeded in stealing the growth issue from the Democrats, repackaging it and recasting the GOP as the party of economic growth. Only then did Americans seemingly overcome their ambivalence about abundance. More recently, Clinton's eclectic and pragmatic approach to sustaining growth has put limits on it. Brilliantly original, this study demonstrates how different groups--from liberals to Cold Warriors--used economic growth to further their own ends, sometimes with disastrous or unforeseen consequences. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
From the Publisher
More offers a thoughtful, balanced, clearly written, and entertaining account of post-World War II America's love affair with the blessings of economic growth. In the process we learn much about federal efforts, sometimes successful, sometimes not, to sustain it. I learned a great deal about policymaking and economic ideas from Collins' thoroughly researched analysis."—James T. Patterson, author of Grand Expectations:The United States, 1945-1974

More is one of those rare books that will actually change how historians perceive the past. Through the prism of government attitudes toward abundance, Robert Collins finds fresh things to say about American presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, challenges current perceptions of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and raises searching questions about how we should evaluate economic policy today."—William E. Leuchtenburg, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"In More, Robert Collins provides a thoroughly historicized account of how American attitudes toward economic growth have evolved in the latter half of the twentieth century. This project, altogether unusual and sorely needed, prompts us to examine critically a vast array of deeply-held beliefs concerning the virtues and costs of economic expansion in a fashion that is as welcome as it is necessary. Moreover, it allows Collins to provide us with a novel and most thought-provoking consideration of the social and political forces that paved the way for the 'Supply-Side Revolution' of the Reagan years. A fine achievement and a most important contribution."—Michael A. Bernstein, University of California, San Diego

"More is a brilliant and fascinating examination of the postwar 'politics of growth' from its liberal heyday between the late 1940s and the late 1960s, through its trials in the 1970s, and into its antistatist reincarnation in the 1980s and beyond. 'Growthmanship,' in Robert Collins' engaging account, is at once an economic panacea, a political compromise, and a cultural consensus—a tangle of aspirations and anxieties that confounded policymakers both when it paid off and when it did not. This is economic history at its best, offering both a subtle and accessible account of growth politics and its dilemmas, and a compelling argument for their importance in framing our broader understanding of the postwar era."—Colin Gordon, University of Iowa

"More is essential reading for anyone interested in American growth policy since the New Deal. Thoroughly researched, lucidly written, and fully cognizant of the subject's complexities and ambiguities, it offers not only a fascinating and much needed reconstruction of American growth initiatives and their critics but also a new and persuasive conceptualization of successive growth regimes and divergent political visions and prescriptions. In major respects, it adds to or alters our understanding of New Deal ambivalence, post-New Deal liberalism, anti-New Deal forms of growthmanship, the role of economists in policy making, and current debates about sustainable growth."—Ellis W. Hawley, University of Iowa

Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)
1670L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Robert M. Collins is Professor of History at the University of Missouri, Columbia, where he teaches recent U.S. history. He is the author of The Business Response to Keynes, 1929-1964. He lives in Columbia, Missouri.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >