Class Struggle and the New Deal
Industrial Labor, Industrial Capital, and the State
Rhonda F. Levine
In this provocative reassessment of New Deal policymaking, Rhonda Levine argues that the major constraints upon and catalysts for FDR's policies were rooted in class conflict. Countering recent neo-Marxist and state-centered theories, which focus solely on administrative and bureaucratic structures or on the "fragmented character of the state apparatus," she contends that too little attention has been paid to the effect of class struggle on New Deal policymaking.
Drawing on a vast array of archival sources, Levine shows that Roosevelt's plans for economic recovery reflected compromises not only between capitalist and working classes, but also among factions within the capitalist class itself. The National Labor Relations Act, for example, was passed to defuse the increasing militance of the working class, while the National Industrial Recovery Act was created not only to overcome obstacles to industrial expansion but also to unify the sharply divided ranks of big business.
“A coherent argument and well-organized presentation make Levine's book useful reading for political sociologists and scholars interested in the New Deal.”
“An ably argued analysis of the New Deal industrial recovery program. . . . [and] also a theoretical treatise on the capitalist state. . . . Levine argues against both liberal pluralist and instrumentalist views of the origins of state policies.”
—Journal of American HistorySee all reviews...
“Levine analyzes the balance of class forces during the Great Depression of the 1930s and the ways in which they shaped the formulation, implementation, and consequences of federal policies. . . . This well-structured book views the New Deal from an unusual standpoint, contributes to an understanding of theories of the capitalist state, and illuminates determinants of policy-making. It should be read by historians and political scientists as well as sociologists.”
“This book is an exemplar of how to proceed in historical sociology. Levine makes a major theoretical contribution to recent debates about the autonomy of the state and the relative impact of business and labor on state policies. Her core argument is a judicious and well-doicumented critique of the state-centered approach, which alone makes her study both controversial and important. Well reasoned and thoroughly documented, Levine's book is also exceptionally well written and should be read by anyone interested in twentieth-century American history, historical sociology, theories of the state, and policy develpment.”
—Jill S. Quadago, author of The Transformation of Old Age Security: Class and Politics in the American Welfare StateSee fewer reviews...
Levine demonstrates that the NLRA and related programs were a direct response to both unemployed workers' demands for federal relief and employed workers' resistance to decreased wages and increased hours. These concessions were linked to the Democratic Party's realignment with and assimilation of the working class, which, ironically, resulted in organized labor's support of the existing political and economic order. Ultimately, these policies and shifts laid the foundation for a new and more accelerated phase of industrial development after World War II.