Anthropology and the Search for Social Order
The Depression and then the Second World War dominated everyday life during the 1930s and 1940s. In the four years following the crash of the stock market in 1929, nearly a million farmers went bankrupt; seventeen million workers, nearly a third of the total workforce, were fully unemployed, and one in three of those with jobs worked reduced hours; industrial output declined by fifty percent; and the volume of foreign trade fell by seventy percent. The international position of the United States was weakened, and its capitalists struggled with their British counterparts for markets and investment opportunities in Latin America and Canada.
In 1933, newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945) and a Congress controlled by the Democrats launched a series of programs, called the New Deal, that attempted to resolve the crisis. The federal government expanded its role as a consumer of goods and services, created relief programs for workers and reorganized business and labor relations in ways that would promote industrial growth and favorable investment opportunities at home and abroad (Ekirch 1969; Pels 1973). It also established public corporations, most notably the Tennessee Valley Authority which built a network of dams and canals to protect the area from floods and a series of hydroelectric projects in the Western states; in the process, the federal government became a major producer of hydroelectric power and the employer of large numbers of specialists and technicians (Higgs 1987:159–95). Big business and the investment banks sought and received the government's support for every phase of their internationalization and overseas expansion into new markets, especially in Latin America and the Pacific (Williams 1961:451–78; 1972:162–201).
The regulatory policies initiated by the federal government during the 1930s promoted continuous economic growth after the Second World War broke out. However, after 1940, the government intervened in the economy in unprecedented ways. The Selective Service Act of 1940 underwrote the conscription of ten million men for military service during the war. The War Powers Acts of 1941 and 1942 permitted the President to reassign personnel; to negotiate cost-plus, no-bid contracts with private suppliers of war-related products; to use the Treasury as a printing press to finance deficits; and to censor communications between the United States and foreign countries. The Office of Price Administration, established in 1941, fixed rents and