3 March 2006
Questions for Alan Brinkley, The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War
--What are the changing definitions of liberalism?
--How does Brinkley define New Deal liberalism?
--What are his motivations for writing this book?
--How do Brinkley’s interpretations about New Deal reform differ or compare to those of Rodgers?
--What reforms are attempted? What do they target? Poverty? Government? Politics? How, if ever, do those targets change over time?
--What does Brinkley say about the various approaches to studying New Deal liberalism, specifically about the state-centered focus? Where does Brinkley fall?
--What do we make of Brinkley’s attention to white middle and upper class males in the making of the New Deal? What is the role of elite? What exactly defines elite?
--Does Brinkley sufficiently explain the cultural and social changes that contributed to the shift from producer-oriented to consumer-oriented society? What does Brinkley say this shift means? Is it inevitably a pejorative phenomenon? Why or why not?
--How important was the new idea of combating “misery”(67) as opposed to simply poverty during the New Deal? How was it connected to consumption?
--How does the attitude toward government spending change during this period? Who are its advocates? How does it contribute to economic recovery?
--To what extent did the hostility toward capitalism that defined pre and early New Deal reformers subside?
--What is Keynesianism? What does Brinkley say its role on reform and planning was?
--What is the legacy of the failure of the NRA?
--What role/influence does Brinkley give to FDR during the New Deal?
--How were the Democrats divided?
--Who are the key players in the New Deal? What is their relationship with FDR? How important are individuals in Brinkley’s rendering?
--What were the contending issues in the “struggle for a program?” (97)
--Why was 1937 so pivotal? What ideas about business organization result from events from the events of this year?
--How did reformers approach the issue of business monopolies before and after 1937? What role did ideology play in dealing with the issue in Brinkley’s view?
--How does Brinkley assess Thurman Arnold? Does his examination of Arnold and monopolies reveal a greater point about the New Deal?
--What was the “mature economy” theory? What impact does it have on New Deal reforms?
--What are the internal struggles within the liberal camp about? How does Brinkley say Liberals helped their own defeat?
--Where, then, does the role of democracy fit in to this book? Brinkley says, “The conservative tide ran considerably stronger in Congress than it did in the population as a whole” (143). How does Brinkley explain this? Are we satisfied with his explanations as to why politically the New Deal faced growing opposition?
--How did FDR figure in the liberal internal struggles?
--How was Leon Henderson and his leadership of the Office of Price Administration (OPA) a “metaphor for what happened to liberals generally”? (146)
--What is the role of World War II in determining the direction of the New Deal reforms? What does this say about events acting as driving forces of change? What did the War Protection Board do/create in Brinkley’s view?
--How were unions affected by WWII? What did the proposals of labor leaders such as Murray and Reuther do to affect long-term labor-business and labor-state relations? What does Brinkley insist labor lost? What did labor gain?
--What, if anything, does Brinkley say/imply about the power of business throughout his book?
--What is “full employment”? What did its acceptance reveal about changing ideologies? How did the concept in the 1940s differ from the 1930s? What does Brinkley argue was the significance of the Full Employment Bill?
--Is too little attention given to battles with Congress? What about the role of the Supreme Court?
--Can we look to the New Deal as an example or an exception? Was it an extreme case motivated by extreme events? Why does Brinkley say it failed?
--What were successes and contributions of liberalism according to Brinkley? How did liberalism contribute to its own undoing? Does Brinkley leave us hopeful or discouraged?
--Brinkley mentions briefly the “Reagan Revolution” and the conservative opposition to liberal reforms. What about this? Does this happen in a vacuum? Does Brinkley provide any hints as to what this indicates about popular belief in liberal ideals?