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The Great Society and the High Tide of Liberalism

edited by Sidney M. Milkis and Jerome M. Mileur

Publication Year: 2005

The long era of liberal reform that began with the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century and continued with the New Deal, culminated in the 1960s with Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. Inspired by the example of his mentor, Franklin Roosevelt, Johnson sought to extend the agenda of the New Deal beyond the realm of economic security to civil rights, housing, education, and health care. In the end, however, his bold ambitions for a Great Society, initiated against the backdrop of an increasingly costly and divisive war, fueled a conservative backlash and undermined faith in liberalism itself. In this volume of original essays, a distinguished group of scholars and activists reassess the mixed legacy of this third major reform period of the last century. They examine not only the policies and programs that were part of LBJ's Great Society, but also the underlying ideological and political shifts that changed the nature of liberalism. Some of the essays focus on Lyndon Johnson himself and the institution of the modern presidency, others on specific reform measures, and still others on the impact of these initiatives in the decades that followed. Perspectives, methodologies, and conclusions differ, yet all of the contributors agree that the Great Society represented an important chapter in the story of the American republic and its ongoing struggle to reconcile the power of the state with the rights of individuals—a struggle that has continued into the twenty-first century. In addition to the editors, contributors include Henry J. Abraham, Brian Balogh, Rosalyn Baxandall, Edward Berkowitz, Eileen Boris, Richard A. Cloward, Hugh Davis Graham, Hugh Heclo, Frederick Hess, William E. Leuchtenburg, Nelson Lichtenstein, Patrick McGuinn, Wilson Carey McWilliams, R. Shep Melnick, Frances Fox Piven, and David M. Shribman.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Dedication

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Table of Contents

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Preface

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pp. xi- xx

This volume marks the third we have edited on political reform in the twentieth century. In important respects, these three volumes— on the Progressive Era, the New Deal, and the Great Society— tell the story of a long secular development. Twentieth-century America was a country in transition from a localist and provincial regime to a more national and socially

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Chapter 1 - Lyndon Johnson, the Great Society, and the “Twilight” of the Modern Presidency

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pp. 1-52

The place in history of Lyndon B. Johnson and the Great Society is a difficult matter to assess. As the essays in this volume reveal, the Great Society marks both an extension of and a critical departure from the New Deal. In this essay I seek to make sense of the continuities and discontinuities...

Part I - Rethinking the Great Society: Ideology, Institutions, and Social Movements

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Chapter 2 - Sixties Civics

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pp. 53-82

In a time when “teach-ins” became a campus fashion, the sixties as a whole constituted the biggest teach-in of all. The period became a school of sorts for teaching Americans how to think about public affairs. Its curriculum developed in thousands of campus debates, TV exposés, street demonstrations, and newspaper and magazine stories. Less dramatically, the teaching....

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Chapter 3 - Pluralism, Postwar Intellectuals, and the Demise of the Union Idea

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pp. 83-114

Trade union movements in the industrialized West normally stand on the left side of a nation’s political culture, and they usually reap benefits of great organizational and political value when leftwing ideas circulate freely and when social democratic regimes come to power. This is true in most of Western Europe, Canada, and even Poland, Spain, South Africa, and...

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Chapter 4 - Contested Rights: The Great Society between Home and Work

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pp. 115-144

The proper relation between wage earning and family labor has stood at the center of a century-long debate over public assistance for those in need. A set of binaries has framed this discussion. Do public or private efforts sap initiative or alleviate suffering? Will marriage or economic independence...

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Chapter 5 - Making Pluralism “Great”: Beyond a Recycled History of the Great Society

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pp. 145-182

The proper relation between wage earning and family labor has stood at the center of a century-long debate over public assistance for those in need. A set of binaries has framed this discussion. Do public or private efforts sap initiative or alleviate suffering? Will marriage or economic independence...

Part II - Lyndon Johnson and the American Presidency

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Chapter 6 - Lyndon Johnson in the Shadow of Franklin Roosevelt

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pp. 183-213

For reasons only those captivated by psychohistory will care to explore, Lyndon Johnson went through life with a series of “daddies”— older men he revered and counted on to advance his career—and of all the daddies, by far the most important for him was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Toward the end of his life, Johnson told Walter Cronkite: “Franklin D. Roosevelt, he...

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Chapter 7 - Great Societies and Great Empires: Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam

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pp. 214-232

Always a bit larger than life, Lyndon Johnson seems even more titanic when compared with his successors. During the lackluster campaign of 2000, James MacGregor Burns, longing for a president uniting “transformational” vision and “transactional” political craft, thought immediately of “a 21st century LBJ.” 1 Even...

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Chapter 8 - Lyndon Johnson: Means and Ends, and What His Presidency Means in the End

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pp. 233-250

From this vantage point, where the writing of journalism ends and the crafting of history begins, the fog has lifted, the physical characteristics of the landscape of the 1960s now are clear. A third of a century later, the view is far different. At the time—when the passions were strong, the wounds raw, the heartache real—the principal figures of the age seemed to be...

Part III - The Great Society in Action

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Chapter 9 - The Politics of the Great Society

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pp. 251-269

The features of domestic policy that distinguish the Great Society era are widely agreed on. First, new federal programs were initiated, presumably to deal with such social problems as juvenile delinquency (Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Offenses Act of 1961), mental illness (Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1963), poverty (Economic Opportunity...

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Chapter 10 - The New Politics of Participatory Democracy Viewed through a Feminist Lens

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pp. 270-288

In this essay I examine the contribution of second-wave feminism to new forms of democracy and equality. To establish a foundation for my line of reasoning, I explore why a democratic mobilization to challenge female inequality was necessary and long overdue. Finally, I present a historic overview.....

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Chapter 11 - Freedom from Ignorance?: The Great Society and the Evolution of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965

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pp. 289-319

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 was a central component of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and one of the key legislative achievements of the Great Society. This act marked the first major incursion of the federal government into K–12 education...

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Chapter 12 - Medicare: The Great Society’s Enduring National Health Insurance Program

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pp. 320-350

A high official in the Johnson administration described Medicare as a “real jewel in the crown of the federal government.” 1 President Lyndon Johnson, who readily agreed, put Medicare in the company of the Social Security Act of 1935 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as the most “comprehensive and constructive and beneficial” public...

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Chapter 13 - Justices and Justice: Reflections on the Warren Court’s Legacy

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pp. 351- 364

In his trenchant review of a book on the Warren Court by Lucas A. Powe Jr., a professor of law and government at the University of Texas,1 A. E. Dick Howard quickly identified the gravamen of the Warren Court’s legacy...

Part IV - Legacies

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Chapter 14 - The Great Society’s Civil Rights Legacy: Continuity 1, Discontinuity 3

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pp. 365 -386

Looking back today at the directions American society has taken since World War II, most scholars see the 1960s as a cultural and political watershed and emphasize the discontinuities that flowed from it.1 The subtitle of this essay on civil rights policy reflects this view and reads like a baseball score...

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Chapter 15 - From Tax and Spend to Mandate and Sue: Liberalism after the Great Society

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pp. 387-410

The image of the Great Society retains a strong hold on the imagination of liberals and conservatives alike. To conservatives, the LBJ years were the moment of the Great Wrong Turn: unlimited expectations replaced limited government; maximum feasible participation quickly morphed into...

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Chapter 16 - The Great Society and the Demise of New Deal Liberalism

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pp. 411-456

The domestic New Deal ended in the final years of the 1930s, victim in part of Franklin Roosevelt’s Court-packing plan, his executive-reorganization proposals, and his purge campaign—and also by the two-term precedent that made him a lame duck who would be gone by 1941. Predictions...

Contributors

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pp. 457-460

Index

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pp. 461- 490

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613761328
E-ISBN-10: 1613761325
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558494930
Print-ISBN-10: 1558494936

Page Count: 512
Publication Year: 2005

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Economic policy.
  • United States -- Social policy.
  • Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973.
  • Liberalism -- United States
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
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