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American Capitalism

Social Thought and Political Economy in the Twentieth Century

Edited by Nelson Lichtenstein

Publication Year: 2006

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the legitimacy of American capitalism seems unchallenged. The link between open markets, economic growth, and democratic success has become common wisdom, not only among policy makers but for many intellectuals as well. In this instance, however, the past has hardly been prologue to contemporary confidence in the free market. American Capitalism presents thirteen thought-provoking essays that explain how a variety of individuals, many prominent intellectuals but others partisans in the combative world of business and policy, engaged with anxieties about the seismic economic changes in postwar America and, in the process, reconfigured the early twentieth-century ideology that put critique of economic power and privilege at its center.

The essays consider a broad spectrum of figures—from C. L. R. James and John Kenneth Galbraith to Peter Drucker and Ayn Rand—and topics ranging from theories of Cold War "convergence" to the rise of the philanthropic Right. They examine how the shift away from political economy at midcentury paved the way for the 1960s and the "culture wars" that followed. Contributors interrogate what was lost and gained when intellectuals moved their focus from political economy to cultural criticism. The volume thereby offers a blueprint for a dramatic reevaluation of how we should think about the trajectory of American intellectual history in twentieth-century United States.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Title, Copyright and About this Series Pages

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: Social Theory and Capitalist Reality in the American Century

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pp. 1-17

At the opening o f the twenty-first century the power and pervasiveness of American capitalism and of the equation that links open markets to democratic institutions has become a large part of the common wisdom. Words like reform and liberalization now denote the process...

Part I: Theorizing Twentieth-Century American Capitalism

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1. The Postcapitalist Vision in Twentieth-Century American Social Thought

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pp. 21-46

Since the Cold War's end, paeans to the victory of capitalism have brought us to a peculiar pass in modern social thought. The term itself was not always widely embraced. Early modern Europe knew "capital" and "capitalist," but naming a whole socioeconomic order "capitalism" began...

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2. To Moscow and Back: American Social Scientists and the Concept of Convergence

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pp. 47-68

The field of Soviet Studies grew from practically nothing into a major intellectual enterprise in the decades after World War II. While the field clearly benefited from the desire to know the Cold War enemy; the American intellectual encounters with the USSR had effects far beyond...

Part II: Liberalism and Its Social Agenda

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3. Clark Kerr: From the Industrial to the Knowledge Economy

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pp. 71-87

Ever since its publication in 1963, Clark Kerr's The Uses of the University has been an exemplary document of its era. Written when college enrollments were skyrocketing, federal funding for scientific research was abundant, and predictions about a burgeoning...

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4. John Kenneth Galbraith: Liberalism and the Politics of Cultural Critique

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pp. 88-108

Liberalism has become a bad word in the American political lexicon. The "L Word," as some call it today symbolizes pie-in-the-sky dreams, bleeding heart sentimentalism, wimpy foreign policy; anything and everything that is out of touch with America's political realities. ...

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5. The Prophet of Post-Fordism: Peter Drucker and the Legitimation of the Corporation

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pp. 109-131

Given that most people consider running a business to be the very definition of a practical matter, it's a bit perplexing to consider how "management" emerged in the second half of the twentieth century as a discipline with intellectual aspirations as great as medicine or law. ...

Part III: A Critique from the Left

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6. C. Wright Mills and American Social Science

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pp. 135-156

On March 20, 1962, he died of a heart attack at the tragically young age of forty-five. The next day; the New York Times printed an obituary headlined "C. Wright Mills: A Sociologist." To many readers, this was not an apt description. ...

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7. C. L. R. James and the Theory of State Capitalism

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pp. 157-174

C.L.R.James, the Afro-Caribbean writer best known for The Black Jacobins, his 1938 history of the San Domingo slave revolution led by Touissant L'Overture, is the subject of a vast secondary literature treating him largely as a cultural thinker. ...

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8. Oliver C. Cox and the Roots of World Systems Theory

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pp. 175-190

Although Oliver C. Cox never claimed to be a Marxist, he never denied being a socialist.1 In many respects, the distinction he drew between Marxist and non-Marxist socialism was true to his own intellectual inclinations; he wanted the freedom to borrow...

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9. Feminism, Women's History, and American Social Thought at Midcentury

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pp. 191-209

The development of women's history between 1956 and 1969 reflected and helped reshape postwar American social thought. The links that historians have recently made between union activity and the Old Left in the 1940s and second wave feminism in the 1960s are apparent...

Part IV: The Rise of the Right

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10. The Road Less Traveled: Reconsidering the Political Writings of Friedrich von Hayek

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pp. 213-227

In the latter part o f the twentieth century; Anglo-American liberal political thought was dominated by debates about where to draw the line between public power and private rights. Spurred by the effort to implement the New Deal in the United States and the subsequent...

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11. The Politics of Rich and Rich: Postwar Investigations of Foundations and the Rise of the Philanthropic Right

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pp. 228-248

In July 1953, Representative B. Carroll Reece (R-Tenn.) made an announcement on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives pitched for maximum shock appeal. He had evidence of a "diabolical conspiracy" to promote "the furtherance of socialism in the United States," ...

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12. American Counterrevolutionary: Lemuel Ricketts Boulware and General Electric, 1950-1960

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pp. 249-270

The decade of the 1950s has long been seen as an epoch of consensus, especially regarding questions of political economy. As historian Godfrey Hodgson puts it, during the postwar period, "to dissent from the broad axioms" of agreement upon a liberal capitalism was "to proclaim...

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13. Godless Capitalism: Ayn Rand and the Conservative Movement

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pp. 271-290

In 1954 New York, two titans of the twentieth-century American right came face to face. Fiery procapitalist ideologue Ayn Rand, author of the best-selling novel The Fountainhead (1943), met a young William F. Buckley, Jr., fresh off the notoriety and success...

Notes

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pp. 291-360

Contributors

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pp. 361-363

Index

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pp. 365-377

Acknowledgments

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pp. 379-


E-ISBN-13: 9780812202632
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812219401

Page Count: 392
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Politics and Culture in Modern America

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Capitalism -- United States.
  • Right and left (Political science).
  • United States -- Economic policy.
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