chapter  6
23 Pages

The New Deal and the Foundations of Corporate Liberalism

TheGreatDepressionofthe1930swas,withoutanydoubt,themost threateningcrisisinthehistoryofAmericancapitalism.Makingsense oftheNewDealresponsetothiscrisisisnoeasytask,forpartisan feelingsaboutitremainstrongtothepresentday,andareasonably objectivereadingofitshistoryisdifficulttocomeby.Tomanyfreemarketconservatives,theNewDealrepresentsthesinglemostimportantsteptowardsocialistinefficiencyandtyrannyintheUnitedStates. ToreformliberalstheNewDealisthewatershedperiodinrecent Americanhistory-aperiodthatoffersproofofthecommitmentof governmenttosocialjusticeandhumanwelfare.Acloselook,however,suggeststhatbothviewsareessentiallymisplaced.Itwillbemy contentionthattheNewDealisbestunderstoodasaseriesofattempts tosaveafalteringanddepressedcapitalistsystembyfurtherregulating andrationalizingtheeconomy,bybringingimportantelementsofthe labormovementintoestablishedpoliticallife,andbystavingoffsocial disruptionandrevolutionthroughexpansionofthewelfareroleof government.IntheNewDeal,publicofficalsandbusinessleaders institutedmanyofthemechanismsbywhichgovernmentregularizes, stabilizes,protects,andrationalizesamoderncapitalisteconomy.Seen inthislight,theNewDealrepresents,paradoxically,aconservative expansionofgovernmentactivities.Whileitistraditionaltodefineany expansionofgovernmentas"liberal,"Iwouldarguethatsincethis expansionwasdirectedtowardpreservingandcementingtheposition ofprivatecapitalandmaintainingthesocialclasssystem,itmust,inthe end,bejudged"conservative."