At a time when liberalism is in disarray, this vastly illuminating book locates the origins of its crisis. Those origins, says Alan Brinkley, are paradoxically situated during the second term of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose New Deal had made liberalism a fixture of American politics and society. The End of Reform shows how the liberalism of the early New Deal—which set out to repair and, if necessary, restructure America’s economy—gave way to its contemporary counterpart, which is less hostile to corporate capitalism and more solicitous of individual rights. Clearly and dramatically, Brinkley identifies the personalities and events responsible for this transformation while pointing to the broader trends in American society that made the politics of reform increasingly popular. It is both a major reinterpretation of the New Deal and a crucial map of the road to today’s political landscape.
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The title of this book refers to 2 famous volumes on related topics, Richard Hofstader's The Age of Reform and Theodore Lowi's The End of Liberalism. Hofstader covered the period of reforming politics from the late 19th century to FDR and Lowi analyzed the more recent disintegration of post-war liberalism. Brinkley aims to complete a trilogy of works by characterizing how the policies and political thought of the FDR period and its immediate successors became the liberal orthodoxy. Brinkley takes pains to demonstrate that the essential feature of this orthodoxy was an attempt to rescue capitalism from its irrationalities and excesses. Rather than a disguised socialist attack on the free market, as claimed hysterically by many contemporaries, the Roosevelt administrations attempted to build up a regulatory and social meliorist framework that would preserve the essential features of capitalism. This was accompanied by an interest in Keynesian macroeconomic management...
This book is really fundamental for understanding both the New Deal and the Liberal tradition it engendered. The book's title evokes two prior famous books; Hofstader's The Age of Reform and Lowi's End of Liberalism. Brinkley positioned this book as a bridge between Hofstader's description and analysis of the Progressive movement and Lowi's analysis of the disintegration of Liberalism. Brinkley begins by emphasizing the Progressive heritage of the New Deal. After the conservative reaction accompanying the First World War and the 20s, the election of Roosevelt and the crisis of the Depression brought Progressive influenced Democrats (some former Progressive Republicans)to power at a time when the American electorate was willing to try more radical and statist measures. The New Deal, however, was an improvisation and what evolved was a gradual diminution of Progressive skepticism about the institutions of capitalism. The interest in somehow reforming capitalism in any fundamental...
Professor Brinkley attempts to answer this question in this excellent recapitulation of liberalism's development from the late 1930s to the end of World War II. That period began with the so-called "Roosevelt Recession," an unwelcome development for liberals and progressives who had, despite other differences, put their unwavering faith in the political and economic leadership of President Roosevelt.
Brinkley borrows from Ellis Hawley's The New Deal and the Problem of Monopoly and other first-rate treatments of the New Deal to show how previous splits in liberal thought were further aggravated by Roosevelt's recession. Liberals wanting statist control of the economy; liberals wanting governmental-corporate-labor "associational" agreements on production and pricing; liberals stressing anti-monopoly governmental efforts as a way to increase consumption --- all these guys fought for Roosevelt's ear as the President vacillated maddingly on the proper response. The upshot was...
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