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Running Steel, Running America

Race, Economic Policy, and the Decline of Liberalism

By Judith Stein

432 pp., 6 x 9, 18 illus., notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4727-5
    Published: October 1998
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6473-9
    Published: November 2000

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The history of modern liberalism has been hotly debated in

contemporary politics and the academy. Here, Judith Stein uses

the steel industry--long considered fundamental to the U.S.

economy--to examine liberal policies and priorities after World

War II. In a provocative revision of postwar American history,

she argues that it was the primacy of foreign commitments and the

outdated economic policies of the state, more than the nation's

racial conflicts, that transformed American liberalism from the

powerful progressivism of the New Deal to the feeble policies of

the 1990s.

Stein skillfully integrates a number of narratives usually

treated in isolation--labor, civil rights, politics, business,

and foreign policy--while underscoring the state's focus on the

steel industry and its workers. By showing how those who

intervened in the industry treated such economic issues as free

trade and the globalization of steel production in isolation from

the social issues of the day--most notably civil rights and the

implementation of affirmative action--Stein advances a larger

argument about postwar liberalism. Liberal attempts to address

social inequalities without reference to the fundamental and

changing workings of the economy, she says, have led to the

foundering of the New Deal state.

About the Author

Judith Stein, professor of history at the Graduate School and City College of the City University of New York, is author of The World of Marcus Garvey: Race and Class in Modern Society.
For more information about Judith Stein, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

"[A] remarkably sophisticated work. . . . Stein's book is a model of meticulously researched, dispassionate scholarship. Few serious historians of the postwar United States can afford not to read [this book]."--Law and History Review

"One of the most important examinations of race and labor to appear in the 1990s. . . . An original, well-argued, and thought-provoking account of the American steel industry in the post-World War II world. . . . Insights about American political economy, the labor movement, Civil Rights strategies, and the law leap out on almost every page of this book. Through the lens of the steel industry, Stein usefully reframes the postwar historiography not only of race and liberalism but also of trade, economic planning, and foreign policy."--Labor History

"This is a marvelous and important book, an immaculately researched, powerfully written analysis of key issues in U.S. economic and social policy from the 1950s to the 1980s."--Business History

"[A] passionate book. . . . Combines old and new elements--an uncompromising old liberal faith that governments can salvage entire industries and provide every son a job as good as his father’s (and this is, necessarily, a book about men), with a sort of populist suspicion of the current bipartisan religion of free trade and globalization given political voice by Gephart, Buchanan, and Perot and intellectual voice by Dani Rodrik, William Greider, and the Sierra Club. It is thus an oppositional book, a distinctly minority view on what government has done but especially what it has not done but could and ought to do."--Reviews in American History

"Stein’s important book about post-WW II American politics, economics, and race is an innovative interpretation of recent US history."--Choice

"Judith Stein's important book explores one of the great riddles of our time--why it was that a civil rights revolution dedicated to equal economic opportunity should have been followed by the disappearance of decent jobs for so many African Americans. Her case in point is the steel industry where, just as the EEOC lawyers triumphed, the industry collapsed and the contested jobs were gone forever. Stein documents, in fine detail, the indifference of the litigators--their willful indifference--to whether or not they were actually expanding the job opportunities of black workers. More important, Stein suggests, was the disjuncture between the nation's economic and social policies, its failure to understand that the corollary of equal opportunity was the preservation of American jobs from predatory foreign competition. Stein's book is a triumph of heroic research and clear thinking, and essential reading for anyone who cares about this country's festering race problems."--David Brody, author of In Labor's Cause: Main Themes on the History of the American Worker