Pocketbook Politics: Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America

Pocketbook Politics: Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America

by Meg Jacobs, Gary Gerstle, William Chafe
     
 

ISBN-10: 0691130418

ISBN-13: 9780691130415

Pub. Date: 02/20/2007

Publisher: Princeton University Press

"How much does it cost?" We think of this question as one that preoccupies the nation's shoppers, not its statesmen. But, as Pocketbook Politics dramatically shows, the twentieth-century American polity in fact developed in response to that very consumer concern.

In this groundbreaking study, Meg Jacobs demonstrates how pocketbook politics provided the

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Overview

"How much does it cost?" We think of this question as one that preoccupies the nation's shoppers, not its statesmen. But, as Pocketbook Politics dramatically shows, the twentieth-century American polity in fact developed in response to that very consumer concern.

In this groundbreaking study, Meg Jacobs demonstrates how pocketbook politics provided the engine for American political conflict throughout the twentieth century. From Woodrow Wilson to Franklin Roosevelt to Richard Nixon, national politics turned on public anger over the high cost of living.

Beginning with the explosion of prices at the turn of the century, every strike, demonstration, and boycott was, in effect, a protest against rising prices and inadequate income. On one side, a reform coalition of ordinary Americans, mass retailers, and national politicians fought for laws and policies that promoted militant unionism, government price controls, and a Keynesian program of full employment. On the other, small businessmen fiercely resisted this low-price, high-wage agenda that threatened to bankrupt them.

This book recaptures this dramatic struggle, beginning with the immigrant Jewish, Irish, and Italian women who flocked to Edward Filene's famous Boston bargain basement that opened in 1909 and ending with the Great Inflation of the 1970s.

Pocketbook Politics offers a new interpretation of state power by integrating popular politics and elite policymaking. Unlike most social historians who focus exclusively on consumers at the grass-roots, Jacobs breaks new methodological ground by insisting on the centrality of national politics and the state in the nearly century-long fight to fulfill the American Dream of abundance.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691130415
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
02/20/2007
Series:
Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction

Economic Citizenship in the Twentieth Century 1

PART I. THE HIGH COST OF LIVING AND THE RISE OF POCKETBOOK POLITICS, 1900-1930

Chapter One: From the Bargain Basement to the Bargaining Table, 1900-1917 15

Chapter Two: Business without a Buyer, 1917-1930 53

PART II. PURCHASING POWER TO THE PEOPLE, 1930-1940

Chapter Three: The New Deal and the Problem of Prices, 1930-1935 95

Chapter Four: The New Deal and the Problem of Wages, 1935-1940 136

PART III. THE EVILS OF INFLATION IN WAR AND PEACE, 1940-1960

Chapter Five: The Consumer Goes to War, 1940-1946 179

Chapter Six: Pocketbook Politics in an Age of Inflation, 1946-1960 221

Epilogue: Back to Bargain Hunting 262

Notes 266

Index 327

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