Atlantic Crossings

Harvard University Press
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"The most belated of nations," Theodore Roosevelt called his country during the workmen's compensation fight in 1907. Earlier reformers, progressives of his day, and later New Dealers lamented the nation's resistance to models abroad for correctives to the backwardness of American social politics. "Atlantic Crossings" is the first major account of the vibrant international network that they constructed--so often obscured by notions of American exceptionalism--and of its profound impact on the United States from the 1870s through 1945.

On a narrative canvas that sweeps across Europe and the United States, Daniel Rodgers retells the story of the classic era of efforts to repair the damages of unbridled capitalism. He reveals the forgotten international roots of such innovations as city planning, rural cooperatives, modernist architecture for public housing, and social insurance, among other reforms. From small beginnings to reconstructions of the new great cities and rural life, and to the wide-ranging mechanics of social security for working people, Rodgers finds the interconnections, adaptations, exchanges, and even rivalries in the Atlantic region's social planning. He uncovers the immense diffusion of talent, ideas, and action that were breathtaking in their range and impact.

The scope of "Atlantic Crossings" is vast and peopled with the reformers, university men and women, new experts, bureaucrats, politicians, and gifted amateurs. This long duree of contemporary social policy encompassed fierce debate, new conceptions of the role of the state, an acceptance of the importance of expertise in making government policy, and a recognition of a shared destiny in a newly created world.

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About the author

Daniel T. Rodgers is Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at Princeton University.

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Publisher
Harvard University Press
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Published on
Jun 30, 2009
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Pages
670
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ISBN
9780674042827
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / 20th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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At the dawn of the twentieth century, Theodore Roosevelt and J. Pierpont Morgan were the two most powerful men in America, perhaps the world. As the nation’s preeminent financier, Morgan presided over an elemental shift in American business, away from family-owned companies and toward modern corporations of unparalleled size and influence. As president, Theodore Roosevelt expanded the power of that office to an unprecedented degree, seeking to rein in those corporations and to rebalance their interests with those of workers, consumers, and society at large.
Overpowering figures and titanic personalities, Roosevelt and Morgan could easily have become sworn enemies. And when they have been considered together (never before at book length), they have generally been portrayed as battling colossi, the great trust builder versus the original trustbuster. But their long association was far more complex than that, and even mutually beneficial.
Despite their many differences in temperament and philosophy, Roosevelt and Morgan had much in common—social class, an unstinting Victorian moralism, a drive for power, a need for order, and a genuine (though not purely altruistic) concern for the welfare of the nation. Working this common ground, the premier progressive and the quintessential capitalist were able to accomplish what neither could have achieved alone—including, more than once, averting national disaster. In the process they also changed forever the way that government and business worked together.
An Unlikely Trust is the story of the uneasy but fruitful collaboration between Theodore Roosevelt and Pierpont Morgan. It is also the story of how government and business evolved from a relationship of laissez-faire to the active regulation that we know today. And it is an account of how, despite all that has changed in America over the past century, so much remains the same, including the growing divide between rich and poor; the tangled bonds uniting politicians and business leaders; and the pervasive feeling that government is working for the special interests rather than for the people. Not least of all, it is the story of how citizens with vastly disparate outlooks and interests managed to come together for the good of their common country.
During the five full years of his presidency (1964–1968), Lyndon Johnson initiated a breathtaking array of domestic policies and programs, including such landmarks as the Civil Rights Act, Head Start, Food Stamps, Medicare and Medicaid, the Immigration Reform Act, the Water Quality Act, the Voting Rights Act, Social Security reform, and Fair Housing. These and other "Great Society" programs reformed the federal government, reshaped intergovernmental relations, extended the federal government's role into new public policy arenas, and redefined federally protected rights of individuals to engage in the public sphere. Indeed, to a remarkable but largely unnoticed degree,Johnson's domestic agenda continues to shape and influence current debates on major issues such as immigration, health care, higher education funding, voting rights, and clean water, even though many of his specific policies and programs have been modified or, in some cases, dismantled since his presidency.

LBJ's Neglected Legacy examines the domestic policy achievements of one of America's most effective, albeit controversial, leaders. Leading contributors from the fields of history, public administration, economics, environmental engineering, sociology, and urban planning examine twelve of LBJ's key domestic accomplishments in the areas of citizenship and immigration, social and economic policy, science and technology, and public management. Their findings illustrate the enduring legacy of Johnson's determination and skill in taking advantage of overwhelming political support in the early years of his presidency to push through an extremely ambitious and innovative legislative agenda, and emphasize the extraordinary range and extent of LBJ's influence on American public policy and administration.

Historians have often speculated on the alternative paths the United Stages might have taken during the Great Depression: What if Franklin D. Roosevelt had been killed by one of Giuseppe Zangara’s bullets in Miami on February 17, 1933? Would there have been a New Deal under an administration led by Herbert Hoover had he been reelected in 1932? To what degree were Roosevelt’s own ideas and inclinations, as opposed to those of his contemporaries, essential to the formulation of New Deal policies?

In Roosevelt, the Great Depression, and the Economics of Recovery, the eminent historian Elliot A. Rosen examines these and other questions, exploring the causes of the Great Depression and America’s recovery from it in relation to the policies and policy alternatives that were in play during the New Deal era. Evaluating policies in economic terms, and disentangling economic claims from political ideology, Rosen argues that while planning efforts and full-employment policies were essential for coping with the emergency of the depression, from an economic standpoint it is in fact fortunate that they did not become permanent elements of our political economy. By insisting that the economic bases of proposals be accurately represented in debating their merits, Rosen reveals that the productivity gains, which accelerated in the years following the 1929 stock market crash, were more responsible for long-term economic recovery than were governmental policies.

Based on broad and extensive archival research, Roosevelt, the Great Depression, and the Economics of Recovery is at once an erudite and authoritative history of New Deal economic policy and timely background reading for current debates on domestic and global economic policy.

The Progressive Era, a few brief decades around the turn of the last century, still burns in American memory for its outsized personalities: Theodore Roosevelt, whose energy glinted through his pince-nez; Carry Nation, who smashed saloons with her axe and helped stop an entire nation from drinking; women suffragists, who marched in the streets until they finally achieved the vote; Andrew Carnegie and the super-rich, who spent unheard-of sums of money and became the wealthiest class of Americans since the Revolution. Yet the full story of those decades is far more than the sum of its characters. In Michael McGerr's A Fierce Discontent America's great political upheaval is brilliantly explored as the root cause of our modern political malaise.

The Progressive Era witnessed the nation's most convulsive upheaval, a time of radicalism far beyond the Revolution or anything since. In response to the birth of modern America, with its first large-scale businesses, newly dominant cities, and an explosion of wealth, one small group of middle-class Americans seized control of the nation and attempted to remake society from bottom to top. Everything was open to question -- family life, sex roles, race relations, morals, leisure pursuits, and politics. For a time, it seemed as if the middle-class utopians would cause a revolution.

They accomplished an astonishing range of triumphs. From the 1890s to the 1910s, as American soldiers fought a war to make the world safe for democracy, reformers managed to outlaw alcohol, close down vice districts, win the right to vote for women, launch the income tax, take over the railroads, and raise feverish hopes of making new men and women for a new century.

Yet the progressive movement collapsed even more spectacularly as the war came to an end amid race riots, strikes, high inflation, and a frenzied Red scare. It is an astonishing and moving story.

McGerr argues convincingly that the expectations raised by the progressives' utopian hopes have nagged at us ever since. Our current, less-than-epic politics must inevitably disappoint a nation that once thought in epic terms. The New Deal, World War II, the Cold War, the Great Society, and now the war on terrorism have each entailed ambitious plans for America; and each has had dramatic impacts on policy and society. But the failure of the progressive movement set boundaries around the aspirations of all of these efforts. None of them was as ambitious, as openly determined to transform people and create utopia, as the progressive movement. We have been forced to think modestly ever since that age of bold reform. For all of us, right, center, and left, the age of "fierce discontent" is long over.
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