Monday, January 26, 2004

'For the Survival of Democracy'

An interesting new book on the New Deal. This is from the review in the Times:

''For the Survival of Democracy'' is a history of the New Deal in the spirit of the Democratic Leadership Council.

Hamby, a distinguished professor at Ohio University, knows exactly what he's doing here. The generation that created his field, he writes in an epilogue, ''established a tone that still dominates the study of American politics in the 1930's: a near-adulatory perspective, occasionally nagged by a sense that F.D.R. was too 'conservative' to lead us entirely into the promised land of equalitarian social democracy.'' He also notes the inconvenient fact that hobbles them: it's impossible to argue that the New Deal accomplished what it set out to do, namely, to produce a genuine economic recovery.

But it is not in answering the question ''Did it work?'' that Hamby ventures his most aggressive contribution to this discussion. He's more interested in what there was to admire in Roosevelt's attempt. He concludes: not too much.

I took several of Dr. Hamby's classes and seminars many, many years ago. He is a Truman scholar and was a conventional liberal: open-minded, not at all ideological. So this book is not some cut and paste hack job by a right-winger.

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