Rexford Tugwell and the New Deal

By Bernard Sternsher | Go to book overview

Part IV
Professor on the Potomac

12. Intellectual Approaches to Crisis

We have reached that point in Tugwell's career at which he was about to move from campus to capital as an appointee of the administration which Americans had elected to govern them in crisis. We have also noted that his general ideology eventually succumbed to a rival doctrine. Thus, his participation in the New Deal from March 4, 1933, through December 31, 1936, was subject to this limitation, and he suppressed his personal policy preferences to contribute what he could in the emergency. As a preface to the consideration of his contribution, this chapter summarizes some of the ideas--which, with the exception of the "concert of interests" concept, were somewhat more specific than his general holistic ideology but less precise than an administrator's reasoning--that he brought to bear on the bleak conditions of the early 1930's.


I

In early 1932 Tugwell remarked that since the autumn of 1931 there had been a taint of panic in the air as more and more people concluded that the capitalistic structure was collapsing.1 He himself was exasperated at the time he made this remark. He described the capitalistic world as a prostrate one in which the United States commanded no confidence.2 He noted in retrospect that if his criticism of the Hoover administration "now seems a little bitter, a little overurgent, it is to be remembered how far our economy had then sunk and how weak and ineffective were the measures with which Mr. Hoover hoped to defeat depression."3

Tugwell was in a bitter frame of mind when he was taken into the Brain Trust in March, 1932. Looking back, he thought it "accidental

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