New Deal- Historiography and Key Questions

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  • New Deal -Historiography and Key Questions
    • Historians and the New Deal
      • Break with the past? Conservative critics AND liberal defenders
      • Liberals 1950s-60s - 'halfway revolution'
      • Conservatives 1970s- ND makes situation worse
      • Radical/ new left 1960s- 'capital resource operation'
    • Why were cultural projects part of the New Deal?
      • Enormous levels of unemploy-ment among painters, actors, and musicians due to movie/ sound industries
    • The New Deal: The Depression Years 1933-40, Anthony J Badger
      • Modern American political economy still bears imprint of New Deal
        • e.g. welfare payments from social security system set up 1935
      • Conservatives
        • Post-war - condemned Roosevelt for introducing socialism
          • Historians have spent more time praising or criticising than explaining ND
      • Liberals
        • Post-war - applauded Roosevelt for extending responsibility of federal government
        • Most historians identified with liberalism
          • 50s and 60s= many aspects of ND appealing
        • Change in historio-graphy
          • 50s= focused largely on Roosevelt himself and clash of ideas between policy makers
          • 60s= began to study ND programmes in action and look at impact at a local level
      • Roosevelt
        • Envisaged his 'Great Society' as completing the unfinished business of the ND
          • In civil rights, healthcare, education, and rural/urban poverty
        • Conservative critics/liberal defenders believed he had instituted massive break with the past
        • Rarely acknowledg-ed that any ND experiment had failed, even when certain policies were abandoned
      • Radicals 1960s
        • Believed ND sustained hegemony of corporate capitalism
          • Argued it was a tool of leaders of largest corporations/ financial institutions
        • Saw ND years as tragic- did not nationalise banks or discipline businessmen
          • Threat of radical protest diffused by allowing potentially threatening groups into system
        • Measures designed to help large commercial farmers came at expense of rural poor
        • Welfare/relief measures for unemployed were shrewdly calculated
        • Limited concessions undercut radicalism's appeal
      • 1970s
        • Ideologues of the right challenged notion that ND change was minimal
          • Instead argued that ND set political economy on the wrong course
    • The New Deal: America's Response to the Great Depression
      • 1936- most Americans recognised ND as an important turning point in nation's history
      • Public held very strong opinions about Roosevelt / ND
        • Many were supportive, others hated reforms.
      • Political divisions over ND- established new meanings  'liberal' / 'conservative'
      • Many who lived through GD saw ND as a great national achievement
      • Liberal commitment expressed in ND programmes- social security pension / unemploy-ment benefits. 
        • Supporters believed these programmes were necessary / inviolable
      • Since 70s, republican conservatives have undermined popular confidence in ND beliefs
        • Dismissed ND as outdated /wasting tax-payers' money
      • Most Americans losing touch with  ND
        • Less people alive who remember it well


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