Capitalism and the American Political Ideal

By Edward S. Greenberg | Go to book overview

9. The Collapse of
Corporate Liberalism

Corporate Liberalism is no more; what is eventually to take its place is not yet certain, although Reaganism may prove to be a durable alternative. We are in that in-between time of confusion and anxiety when, as Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci said of an earlier age, "the old order is dead and the new has yet to be born."

The era of Corporate Liberalism roughly spanned the years from the end of the Second World War to the early 1970s. To be sure, policy regimes do not rise and fall on precise dates. Certain policy tendencies that form part of the package defining a policy regime may trace their origins to previous periods, while others may last well into the life of another regime. With that said, however, certain events may serve as important symbolic beginning and end points of a policy regime. My candidates for the symbolic start of Corporate Liberalism would include, among many possibilities, the Employment Act of 1946, which institutionalized the responsibility of the federal government for helping to maintain a stable, full-employment economy; the enunciation in 1947 of the Truman Doctrine, which defined the American posture in the coming Cold War with the Soviet Union and formed the basis for the remilitarization of the American economy; and President Truman's issuance of an executive order requiring loyalty checks for all federal employees, which helped to prepare the ground for the coming McCarthy era purges and the stifling of dissent in American political and intellectual life. The symbolic termination of Corporate Liberalism has its own diverse list of candidates: the hasty and ignoble American retreat from the rooftops of Saigon in 1975, signaling the collapse of Corporate Liberal foreign policy; the OPEC nations' oil embargo following the 1973 Arab—Israeli War, indicating the end of the era of

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