Capitalism and the American Political Ideal

By Edward S. Greenberg | Go to book overview

7. Corporate Liberalism and the
Structure of Modern Capitalism

The United States emerged from the Second World War as the economically and politically most powerful nation in the world. While Japan, Western Europe, China, and the Soviet Union were forced to rebuild shattered economies and bomb-leveled cities and industrial centers, America faced the future blessed with humming factories, accumulated consumer and business savings, a world market without serious competitors, and a monopoly (for a time) on peaceful and not-so-peaceful atomic power. After a short period of postwar economic adjustment, the American juggernaut took off, producing by 1947 "57 percent of the world's steel, 43 percent of its electricity, and 62 percent of its oil. It owned three-quarters of the world's automobiles and was improving on that showing by manufacturing well over 80 percent of the new cars built in the world."' By the late 1940s, the Depression seemed like a distant memory; the future seemed boundless, the coming "American century" inevitable, beneficial, and beneficent. Out of the destruction of the war there seemed to have emerged an American economic and political order that had transcended the problems of capitalist development, a system free of basic antagonisms and contradictions.

This optimistic vision was built, it seemed, on a solid foundation: profitable, innovative, and expanding corporations; a world eager for the goods produced by American factories; a relatively tame and cooperative working class; a steadily expanding defense sector with a voracious appetite for the production of the electronics, munitions, chemical, and airplane/aerospace industries; the conquest of the business cycle made possible by the Keynesian revolution in economic science; and social peace assured by the various social insurance and collective‐ bargaining programs that were the legacies of the New Deal.

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