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The Racketeer's Progress

The Racketeer's Progress
Chicago and the Struggle for the Modern American Economy, 1900–1940

$108.00 (C)

Part of Cambridge Historical Studies in American Law and Society

  • Date Published: May 2004
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521834667

$ 108.00 (C)
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About the Authors
  • A provocative study of law and its social context, this work explores the contingent origins of the modern American economy. It shows how craftsmen - teamsters, barbers, musicians, and others - violently governed commerce in Chicago through pickets, assaults, and bombings. These tradesmen forcefully contested the power of national corporations in their city. Their resistance shaped American law, heavily influencing the New Deal and federal criminal statutes. This book thus shows that American industrial policy resulted not from a "search for order," but from a brutal struggle for control.

    • Describes violence in Chicago, showing how craft workers and small businessmen resisted the rise of mass culture and a modern corporate economy
    • Explores the real role of gangsters like Murray 'The Camel' Humphreys in the urban economy
    • Illuminates the true context for American labour law, discussing the decline of conspiracy law, enactment of anti-racketeering statues, and the rise of New Deal order
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "Cohen offers the most sweeping alternative yet advanced to the 'organizational synthesis' frequently invoked for twentieth-century development. Linking the urban trades, shopkeeping, and service occupations to the urban political machine, Cohen describes a robust and deeply-ingrained social formation that thrived on self-regulated consumption, collective bargaining, and the politically-adjudicated resolution of interest conflicts. What is more, as Cohen clearly demonstrates, it put up quite a fight against the ultimately more powerful 'corporate order' which commanded the high ground of the courts and national political power. By reexamining the complexity of the early 20th century urban economy including its economic and political logic, Cohen suggests, we will find discarded tools that may still serve us in imagining a more just and democratic future." Leon Fink, UIC Distinguished Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

    "Andrew Cohen has written an important and perceptive history of a relatively under-examined area of American labor. This is the story of a raucous, sometimes unsavory, but always significant group of craft workers whose heavy-handed tactics and resistance to 'modern' ideas of labor organization earned them the scorn of many of their contemporaries in the early twentieth century. Cohen restores them to importance and charts their eventual transformation." Alan Brinkley, Allan Nevins Professor of History, Columbia University

    "Insisting that we look beyond the gleaming factories and department stores that have dominated the historical literature to the highly complex, unstable, and violent world of small businessmen and skilled craftsmen that dominated the early twentieth-century city and fiercely resisted the triumph of corporate capitalism, Andrew Cohen makes us look at the social organization of the city anew and develops a bracing reinterpretation of the political economy of the Progressive Era and New Deal. Prodigiously researched and boldly argued, this is revisionist history at its best." George Chauncey, University of Chicago

    "Analyzing the overlapping realms of politics, business, labor, and the underworld, Cohen's stunning new interpretation of Progressive era Chicago greatly expands our understanding of 'modern' America, revealing deep connections between that era and our own." Kathryn Sklar, Distinguished Professor of History, Binghamton University

    "The Racketeer's Progress is an important contribution to the growing literature on the role of law in the relationship between labor and capital." - Enterprise and Society, Susan E. Hirsch, Loyola University, Chicago

    "Cohen has shown our existing maps to be inadequate and has made the drawing up of new ones seem a pressing concern. That is a great accomplishment, indeed." - Daniel Ernst, Georgetown University

    "The Racketeer's Progress is an original, engaging study that succeeds in describing Chicago's craft economy and in challenging historians to rethink their interpretations of early-twentieth-century political economy." - Joshua A.T. Salzmann, University of Illinois at Chicago

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2004
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521834667
    • length: 352 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 24 mm
    • weight: 0.63kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Modernisation and its discontents, 1900
    2. Ruling the urban economy
    3. The struggle for order
    4. The progressive reaction
    5. Rhetoric into law
    6. Containing mass society and the problem of corruption
    7. From conspiracy to racketeering
    8. The new deal order from the bottom up
    Epilogue: policing the post-war consensus.

  • Author

    Andrew Wender Cohen, Syracuse University, New York

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