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Once viewed as a distinct era characterized by intense bigotry, nostalgia for simpler times, and a revulsion against active government, the 1920s have been rediscovered by historians in recent decades as a time when Herbert Hoover and his allies worked to significantly reform economic policy. In American Labor and Economic Citizenship, Mark Hendrickson both augments and amends this view by studying the origins and development of New Era policy expertise and knowledge. Policy-oriented social scientists in government, trade union, academic, and nonprofit agencies showed how methods for achieving stable economic growth through increased productivity could both defang the dreaded business cycle and defuse the pattern of hostile class relations that Gilded Age depressions had helped to set as an American system of industrial relations. Linked by emerging institutions such as the Social Science Research Council, the National Urban League, and the Women's Bureau, social investigators attacked rampant sexual and racial discrimination, often justified by fallacious biological arguments, that denied female and minority workers full economic citizenship in the workplace and the polity. These scholars demonstrated that these practices not only limited productivity and undercut expanded consumption, but also belied the claims for fairness that must buttress policy visions in a democracy.Read more
- Draws on an extensive examination of published and archival sources to consider not only Herbert Hoover and his allies, but also a long and distinguished group of experts who saw expertise and inquiry as paths to reforming American gender, ethnic and race relations
- Makes the case for the importance of the 1920s to not only the New Deal period, but also to the decades following World War II
- Focuses on the significance of a period (the 1920s) that has received new scrutiny in light of the economic crisis since 2008
Reviews & endorsements
"Mark Hendrickson has crafted an important narrative that explains how early twentieth-century American business leaders, social scientists, and political activists worked to regulate, stabilize, and strengthen a newly configured national economy. He demonstrates how their efforts were ironically paralleled by the emerging resistance of marginalized and underrepresented groups (women, African Americans, and Mexican Americans) to the worst excesses of an economic system that, while possessed of many virtues, also subsisted on inequality and injustice."
Michael A. Bernstein, Tulane UniversitySee more reviews
"Mark Hendrickson breathes new life into the history of the 1920s, showing that economic life in the Jazz Age was far more contested than previously imagined. As economists, politicians, union leaders, and advocates for African-American and Mexican-American workers grappled with an emerging consumer society, debates over economic knowledge became struggles over the terms of American citizenship itself. Brilliantly combining political economy and social history, American Labor and Economic Citizenship is a model of the most exciting new scholarship on the political history of capitalism in American life."
Christopher Capozzola, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"Mark Hendrickson sharpens our understanding of the effort to rethink the place of workers in an increasingly consumer-oriented economy in the 1920s. As American Labor and Economic Citizenship shows, experts from an array of institutions championed research that challenged Hoover-era assumptions about the ability of growth to ease labor conflict, particularly for a labor force increasingly divided by race and gender. Ambitious and sophisticated, Hendrickson's work will revise our thinking on questions ranging from the influence of expertise in policy making to the continuing struggle for full economic citizenship."
Andrew Morris, Union College, New York
"A significant contribution to our understanding of how the 1920s fit into the construction of the liberal social contract in the United States. An enduring achievement."
Kathryn Kish Sklar, State University of New York, Binghamton
"Hendrickson brings the players and their organizations together in a comprehensive, well-organized, and readable account. He also shows that, despite their common acceptance of the power of inquiry and analysis, 'new era' experts came to sharply different conclusions regarding the ability of capital and markets to balance production and consumption and to distribute appropriately the rewards from productivity gains."
Journal of American History
"Hendrickson’s book provides valuable insight into the modestly ameliorative consequences of empirical inquiry in government, academia, and nonprofit foundations that aspired to impartiality."
American Historical Review
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- Date Published: May 2013
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9781107028609
- length: 332 pages
- dimensions: 237 x 157 x 22 mm
- weight: 0.6kg
- contains: 3 b/w illus.
- availability: In stock
Table of Contents
1. 'Hoovering' in the twenties: efficiency, wages, and growth in the 'new economic system'
2. Wages and the public interest: economists and the wage questions in the new era
3. Enlightened labor? Labor's share and economic stability
4. A new capitalism? Interrogating employers' efforts to cultivate a 'feeling of partnership' in industry
5. Gender research as labor activism: the women's bureau in the new era
6. The new 'Negro problem'
7. Promising problems: working toward a reconstructed understanding of the African American and Mexican worker
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