The Myth of Liberal Ascendancy: Corporate Dominance from the Great Depression to the Great Recessionby G. Williams Domhoff
It is commonly accepted that America saw the rise of liberalism in the wake of the New Deal, especially during the three decades after World War II. Based on new archival research, G. William Domhoff reveals this period instead as one of increasing corporate dominance in government affairs, affecting the fate of American workers up to the present day.
While FDR's New Deal brought sweeping legislation, the tide turned quickly after 1938. From that year onward nearly every major new economic law passed by Congress showed the mark of corporate dominance. The influential Committee for Economic Development was a guiding force for presidential administrations and congressional leaders. Domhoff accessibly portrays documents of the Committee's vital influence in the halls of government, supported by his interviews with several of its key employees and trustees. In terms of economic influence, liberalism was on a long steady decline, despite two decades of post-war growing equality.
Ironically, it was the successes of the civil rights, feminist, environmental, and gay-lesbian movements-not a new corporate mobilization-that led to the final defeat of the liberal-labor alliance after 1968. These cultural successes generated just enough backlash to turn whites toward the Republican Party. It then became possible for the corporate community to solve its emerging economic and political problems through the offshore manufacturing and high interest rates that killed off inflation and the power of unions.
Domhoff (psychology & sociology, emeritus, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) has made a career arguing that the United States is dominated politically and economically by the corporate rich. His first book, Who Rules America? (1967), still in print, set the tone for all his books since. In this new title, Domhoff proceeds, administration by administration, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan, to document how the nation's organized business community has consistently thwarted attempts by the "liberal-labor alliance" to change power structures in any significant way. He bases his argument primarily on research in the records of the Committee for Economic Development (CED), a public policy organization founded in 1942. The organization was led by moderate corporate officials often at odds with the "ultraconservative" business wing but sufficiently aligned with them and with Southern Congressmen to ensure the success of shared goals, especially opposition to the labor movement. Through analysis of Congressional votes on relevant issues and close reading of CED policy papers, Domhoff makes a convincing case that business leaders were more influential in the development of public policy during these decades than most other accounts would have it. VERDICT Whether or not they agree with him, historians and political scientists will need to reckon with the reach of Domhoff's argument, the depth of his research, and the controlled passion underlying both.—Robert Nardini, Niagara Falls, NY
- Taylor & Francis
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Meet the Author
G. William Domhoff, Professor Emeritus at UC–Santa Cruz, is the author of Who Rules America? (6th edition 2009) and The New CEOs: Women, African American, Latino, and Asian American Leaders of Fortune 500 Companies (2011).
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