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The Creative Society – and the Price Americans Paid for It


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  • Page extent: 336 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.45 kg
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The Creative Society – and the price Americans paid for it
Cambridge University Press
9781107013179 - The Creative Society – and the price Americans paid for it - By Louis Galambos

The Creative Society – and the price Americans paid for it

The Creative Society is the first history to look at modern America through the eyes of its emerging ranks of professional experts including lawyers, scientists, doctors, administrators, business managers, teachers, policy specialists, and urban planners. Covering the period from the 1890s to the early twenty-first century, Louis Galambos examines the history that shaped professionals and, in turn, their role in shaping modern America. He considers the roles of education, anti-Semitism, racism, and elitism in shaping and defining the professional cadre and examines how matters of gender, race, and ethnicity determined whether women, African Americans, and immigrants from Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East were admitted to the professional ranks. He also discusses the role professionals played in urbanizing the United States, keeping the economy efficient and innovative, showing the government how to provide the people a greater measure of security and equity, and guiding the world's leading industrial power in coping with its complex, frequently dangerous foreign relations.

“Louis Galambos delivers a dazzling history of the modern United States as formed by its managers, scientists, diplomats, planners, and lawyers. The hopeful message is that, more often than not, American expertise and innovation will save the day.”

– Jay Hancock, economics columnist, The Baltimore Sun

The Creative Society – and the price Americans paid for it is a bold, provocative, and compelling reinterpretation of perennial dilemmas in American society written by a historian at the top of his game. Louis Galambos brings his ‘organizational synthesis’ to life by evoking the experiences that animated the new professionals – in education, business, government, foreign policy, and urban life – who have made America work since the 1890s. This is history at its best: thoughtful, captivating, witty, and wise. Everyone who reads The Creative Society will gain a new understanding of key crises in American history – and novel insights to make sense of the challenges we face today.”

– Jeffrey L. Sturchio, Senior Partner at RabinMartin, former president and CEO of Global Health Council

“Louis Galambos is equally adept as storyteller and historian. Witty, readable, illuminating, and sometimes highly personal, this is a history book with the drama of a novel. Professor Galambos charts twentieth-century American development in four broad areas – urbanization, innovation, economic security, and internationalism – and weaves throughout these concurrent narratives an astonishing array of detail. His cast of characters is America’s self-proclaimed and educated professionals. Lawyers, economists, nurses, urban planners, mining engineers, teachers, and even military strategists act out a historical pageant that boasts winners and losers. Most vividly, Galambos stirs his own family story into the mix. His small-town Ohio clan of bustling Hungarian emigrants shares the stage with prominent twentieth-century figures like Emma Goldman, George Marshall, and Robert Moses. And in a masterstroke of history writing, he invites us, his readers, to enhance his storytelling with reflections on our own American experience.”

– Mary Yeager and John Lithgow, Los Angeles, California

Louis Galambos is Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University, where he also serves as Editor of the Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower and Co-Director of The Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise. He is the author of numerous books on modern institutional development in America, the rise of the bureaucratic state, and the evolution of the professions, most recently Medicine, Science, and Merck (with Roy Vagelos, 2002). He is coeditor of two Cambridge University Press series and has received widespread recognition for his development of the “organizational synthesis” of modern U.S. history.

The Creative Society – and the price Americans paid for it

Louis Galambos

The Johns Hopkins University

Cambridge University Press
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Cambridge University Press
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Information on this title:

© Louis Galambos 2012
This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.
First published 2012

Printed in the United States of America

A catalog record for this publication is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data

Galambos, Louis.
The creative society – and the price Americans paid for it / Louis Galambos.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-107-01317-9 (hardback) – ISBN 978-1-107-60099-7 (paperback)
1. Creative ability in business – United States – History. 2. Professional employees – United States – History. I. Title.

ISBN 978-1-107-01317-9 Hardback
ISBN 978-1-107-60099-7 Paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party Internet Web sites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such Web sites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

To my four wonderful daughters, Denise, Jennifer, Katherine, and Emma


1     1931
2     Life, Death, and Learning in the Cities
3     Toward a New Economy, 1890 to 1930
4     State Crafting – American Style
5     Confronting the World
6     Winners and Losers, 1890 to 1930
7     New Deal Experiments
8     Fighting on God's Side
9     The New Aristocracy, 1946 to 1969
10    The Suburban Conquest of the 1960s
11    Empire in the American Century
12    The Tattered Empire of the 1970s
13    The Cracked Core
14    The American Solution, 1981 to 2001
15    Conservatism: Rhetoric and Realities, 1981 to 2001
16    The Hegemony Trap
17    The American Dream, 1981 to 2001
18    The Creative Society in Danger


If you are reading this book, you are probably a professional or a wannabe professional in training. Training and practice in the professions require literacy and, to some extent, the curiosity that might encourage you to buy or borrow a book of essays on “The Creative Society.”1 Odds are you live and work in a city or suburb. If you have a job right now, you probably get paid by a relatively large organization and most of your income – like mine – comes to you in the form of regular paychecks. If even a few of these guesses are accurate, you should keep reading because you’re the central subject of this history.

How could that be true? History, we were told in school, has always been shaped by presidents and prime ministers, by generals and dictators, by the people who make it into the headlines of newspapers, the TV news, and the blogs. If you don't believe that, just borrow your daughter or son's history text and skim through the index. You’ll recognize many of the names even though it may take you a while to remember exactly what they did or when they did it.

The Creative Society looks at history from a different angle and comes to different conclusions about the American experience and the people who did the most to shape it in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. That's where you come in. Or to be more precise, people like you, who practiced a profession and created new ideas that helped America cope with some of the major problems it faced in the twentieth century – and still faces today. Many of those professionals didn't produce entirely new ideas but instead negotiated the compromises that enabled the society to move on to the next big problem. That too is a creative process, but we usually only notice it when it doesn't work. Then the media grinds out heroes and villains. We worry. But we usually don't do anything because we leave most of those problems in the hands of the experts, the professionals.

Not all of the nation's major problems were solved with equal skill, and this book also looks into failure: institutional failure, personal failure, and intellectual failure.2 That's why the subtitle guides you to “the price Americans paid” for their brand of creativity. We’ll look into that “price” and try to get a handle on who paid and how much they paid for the choices the society made. Even great success comes with a price tag. Some paid more dearly than others, especially those who paid with their lives. I apologize for bringing up these negative themes, especially given that your professional ideology, like mine, gives overwhelming emphasis to success.3 The American story is supposed to be a success story, and the modern professions have always been the yellow brick road to a better life. But that's not all of the American story. The history is also filled with moral struggles, collapsing policies, and bankrupt businesses. Just like the newspapers.

Don't worry, the United States is not sinking. Not right now. If it were, I’d have to use a different title. This book was conceived and most of it written before the nation's current economic crisis hit, but our financial turmoil today is a perfect example of how Americans handle and sometimes mishandle these painful situations. As the following pages should help you recall, our creative society has been challenged before. This history may even prepare you to deal with our future challenges at home and abroad. We’ll surely have them.

© Cambridge University Press
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