Perspectives on 20th Century America: Readings and Commentary

By Otis L. Graham Jr. | Go to book overview

standard for significant social change is apparently socialism (virtually equal distribution of income, elimination of racial discrimination, democratic decision-making in industry), his essay offers us a truism. If any change short of socialism is conservative, then of course the New Deal was conservative, a "failure." Bernstein's standard, the criticism runs, is totally unrealistic, and his condemnation of the New Deal correspondingly unhistorical.

This rejoinder to Bernstein, I think, does not quite dispense with his essay. It is true that he never clearly describes his standard for judging the New Deal (a vice common to historians), and occasionally his standard does appear to be some utopian social equality which no political movement has ever achieved. But there are places in the essay where it is apparent that Bernstein's standard is what was possible, not just desirable, in the conditions of the 1930s. He is impressed with the potential for innovation, sees the native American left as having enjoyed great advantages over the defenders of the status quo. In a setting of spontaneous leftward pressures from countless sources, the New Dealers charted a course on the right side of the politically navigable channel.

Here we have an issue fairly joined, a problem not simply of the intrusion of the author's irrelevant personal standards, but a problem in the counting and weighing of evidence. Is Bernstein justified in dismissing the New Deal's extensive political alterations so lightly, and giving such emphasis to the failure to make much change in economic areas such as income distribution or the battle against poverty? Is he justified in estimating the pressures for extensive social reform as having been quite so formidable? And was the conservative ideology of the New Dealers themselves the chief limit on social reform, rather than the political system, the Supreme Court, the intellectual inadequacies of hurried men, the sheer intractability of the problems? If the American economy today, along with American politics and social values, is dominated by a vigorous elite of huge corporations, is that result a direct product of the New Deal, or have other developments (such as World War II and the Cold War) intervened to shape the course of American history? These fundamental questions, always involved in the interpretative discussion of the New Deal, have been given new vitality by writers of pronounced radical views, such as Howard Zinn, Paul Conkin, and Barton J. Bernstein.

Writing from a liberal democratic consensus, many American historians in the past two decades have praised the Roosevelt administration for its nonideological flexibility and for its far-ranging reforms. To many historians, particularly those who reached intellectual maturity during the depression,1 the government's accomplishments, as well as the drama and passion, marked the decade as a watershed, as a dividing line in the American past.

Enamored of Franklin D. Roosevelt and recalling the bitter opposition to welfare measures and restraints upon business, many liberal historians have emphasized the New Deal's discontinuity with the immediate past. For them there was a "Roosevelt Revolution," or at the very least a dramatic achievement of a beneficent liberalism which had developed in fits and spurts during the preceding three decades.2 Rejecting earlier interpre-

-185-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Perspectives on 20th Century America: Readings and Commentary
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 434

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.