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Making a New Deal
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  • Page extent: 544 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.69 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521428385 | ISBN-10: 0521428386)

  • There was also a Hardback of this title but it is no longer available
  • Published October 1991

Replaced by 9781107431799


This book examines how it was possible and what it meant for ordinary factory workers to become effective unionists and national political participants by the mid-1930s. We follow Chicago workers as they make choices about whether to attend ethnic benefit society meetings or to go to the movies, whether to shop in local neighborhood stores or patronize the new A & P. Although workers may not have been political in traditional terms during the '20s, as they made daily decisions like these, they declared their loyalty in ways that would ultimately have political significance. As the depression worsened in the 1930s, not only did workers find their pay and working hours cut or eliminated, but the survival strategies they had developed during the 1920s were undermined. Looking elsewhere for help, workers adopted new ideological perspectives and overcame longstanding divisions among themselves to mount new kinds of collective action. Chicago workers' experiences as citizens, ethnics and blacks, wage earners and consumers all converged to make them into New Deal Democrats and CIO unionists.


List of illustrations; List of tables; Acknowledgments; Introduction; 1. Living and working in Chicago in 1919; 2. Ethnicity in teh new Era; 3. Encountering mass culture; 4. Contested loyalty at the workplace; 5. Adrift in the Great Depression; 6. Workers make a new deal; 7. Becoming a union rank and file; 8. Workers' common ground; Conclusion; Notes; Index.

Prize Winner

the 1991 Bancroft Prize

the 1990 Philip Taft Labor History Award


"This is an impressive and hefty piece of work." Times Higher Education Supplement

"It is at moments like this that new perspectives on the past, like Lizabeth Cohen's in Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939, are particularly welcome...She reaches beyond narrow specialties historians still indulge draw on the insights and methodologies of community studies, ethnic histories, gender studies, political history (new and old), cultural criticism and social history." David Nasaw, The Nation

"This is a terrific book. Cohen skillfully uses a mass of sources to paint a richly detailed portrait of working-class life in the 1920s and 1930s. We see working people as central actors in a vast twentieth-century historical drama that had been previously told as the story of either elites (corporate heads, government bureaucrats, etc.) or of impersonal social forces (bureaucratization, nationalization, etc). And we see how workers who are in the forefront in their relations to the new mass culture, in their relations with workers from other ethnic and racial groups, also turn out to be in the vanguard in the creation of the new industrial unionism of the 1930s." Roy Rosenzweig, George Mason University

"Cohen has dared to take for her subject the working class of a whole metropolitan area (Chicago)--an ambition that immediately sets this work apart from virtually every other interwar labor history written these last twenty years (which have focused either on particular industries or smaller industrial cities). She has researched prodigiously...and used the extraordinarily rich archives of interwar Chicago sociologists to shower the reader with wonderful insights into local, working-class life. And, she has woven aspects of ethnic and mass cultural history into her story of working-class formation in a manner that I have not seen done before. For all these reasons she may have the makings of a landmark book." Gary Gerstle, Princeton University

"About welfare capitalism Lizabeth Cohen remarks that understanding it `requires reconstructing as well as possible how people encountered the ideology in concrete ways everyday at the plant.' To a remarkable degree, Cohen accomplishes this daunting task, and not only for welfare capitalism, but for all those other questions social historians have asked about America's immigrant working classes: how did they respond to the nationalizing consumer culture of the 1920s? What impact did the Great Depression have on their communities? Why did they attach themselves to the New Deal? How did industrial unionism become the vehicle for their empowerment? ...Cohen brings to bear an enormous body of new evidence, and for all of them she offers arresting and well-founded fresh insight. Her book will be widely read, and much pondered. It marks a giant advance in the social history of American workers, and is beyond question a great achievement." David Brody, University of California, Davis

"...the richness of Cohen's book makes it an esential purchase for research libraries, and a useful item in many other academic collections." Library Journal

"Combining a graceful synthesis of the familiar with the innovative, this landmark study will elevate the perceptions of social historians who read it, as they must." Choice

"This book will be of interest to a wider audience than just labor historians. Students of ethnicity, mass culture, the urban experience, and American politics will find something stimulating here. Lizabeth Cohen has woven an impressive variety of primary sources together with the existing rich scholarship on Chicago to produce a significant contribution to our understanding of U.S. history between the wars." American Historical Review

"In scholarly but never dull prose, the author, a Carnegie Mellon University historian, examines this fascinating social phenomenon as reflected in Chicago's labor history." Chicago Sun-Times

"...a classic of social history. Working at the crossroads of historical materialism and American progressivism, it is a model of humane realism that neither celebrates assimilation nor harbors false illusions about radical alternatives to the New Deal....[Cohen] deserves our utmost thanks." Alan Dawley, International Labor and Working Class History

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