The Problem of Jobs: Liberalism, Race, and Deindustrialization in Philadelphia

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Overview

Contesting claims that postwar American liberalism retreated from fights against unemployment and economic inequality, The Problem of Jobs reveals that such efforts did not collapse after the New Deal but instead began to flourish at the local, rather than the national, level.

With a focus on Philadelphia, this volume illuminates the central role of these local political and policy struggles in shaping the fortunes of city and citizen alike. In the process, it tells the remarkable story of how Philadelphia’s policymakers and community activists energetically worked to challenge deindustrialization through an innovative series of job retention initiatives, training programs, inner-city business development projects, and early affirmative action programs. Without ignoring the failure of Philadelphians to combat institutionalized racism, Guian McKee's account of their surprising success draws a portrait of American liberalism that evinces a potency not usually associated with the postwar era. Ultimately interpreting economic decline as an arena for intervention rather than a historical inevitability, The Problem of Jobs serves as a timely reminder of policy’s potential to combat injustice.
 

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Editorial Reviews

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
Based on extensive archival research, clearly written, and vigorously and persuasively argued, The Problem of Jobs offers an original interpretation of post–World War II liberal reform and late twentiethcentury urban history. In the process, it excavates a local liberalism whose fascinating history remains largely buried. The story narrated in this exceptionally important book is both tragic and inspiring. The tragedy lies in the urban consequences of the nation's inability to conquer its historic politics of race. The inspiration comes from the refusal of local liberalism to die despite decades of assault and its vision of an alternative path that American cities might have followed. The story McKee tells so well is as provocative for thinking about the present and future of American cities as it is for revising the narrative of their past.

— Michael Katz

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography - Michael Katz
"Based on extensive archival research, clearly written, and vigorously and persuasively argued, The Problem of Jobs offers an original interpretation of post–World War II liberal reform and late twentiethcentury urban history. In the process, it excavates a local liberalism whose fascinating history remains largely buried. The story narrated in this exceptionally important book is both tragic and inspiring. The tragedy lies in the urban consequences of the nation's inability to conquer its historic politics of race. The inspiration comes from the refusal of local liberalism to die despite decades of assault and its vision of an alternative path that American cities might have followed. The story McKee tells so well is as provocative for thinking about the present and future of American cities as it is for revising the narrative of their past."
Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

"Based on extensive archival research, clearly written, and vigorously and persuasively argued, The Problem of Jobs offers an original interpretation of post–World War II liberal reform and late twentiethcentury urban history. In the process, it excavates a local liberalism whose fascinating history remains largely buried. The story narrated in this exceptionally important book is both tragic and inspiring. The tragedy lies in the urban consequences of the nation's inability to conquer its historic politics of race. The inspiration comes from the refusal of local liberalism to die despite decades of assault and its vision of an alternative path that American cities might have followed. The story McKee tells so well is as provocative for thinking about the present and future of American cities as it is for revising the narrative of their past."—Michael Katz, Pennsylvania Magazine of History

— Michael Katz

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226560120
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2008
  • Series: Historical Studies of Urban America Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Guian McKee is associate professor at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs.
 

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Liberals, Race, and Jobs in Postwar Philadelphia

1. Economic Crisis and Local Liberalism

2. Good Medicine for Philadelphia? Local Industrial Policy and the Problem of Jobs

3. “Economic development is but a means”: The War on Poverty and Local Economic Planning

4. “We are going to protest and prepare”: Civil Rights and the Origins of OIC

5. “All 200 million of us are going to make it”: The Rise of OIC

6. “We had to create jobs”: The OIC-Progress Movement and Community Capitalism

7. The Philadelphia Plan: Affirmative Action and the Problem of Jobs

8. “You’ll never pull it off in this city”: Model Cities, Racial Conflict, and Local Industrial Policy

Conclusion: And All the World Was Philadelphia

List of Abbreviations

Notes

Index

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