The Industrialists: How the National Association of Manufacturers Shaped American Capitalism

The Industrialists: How the National Association of Manufacturers Shaped American Capitalism

by Jennifer A. Delton


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The first complete history of US industry's most influential and controversial lobbyist

Founded in 1895, the National Association of Manufacturers—NAM—helped make manufacturing the basis of the US economy and a major source of jobs in the twentieth century. The Industrialists traces the history of the advocacy group from its origins to today, examining its role in shaping modern capitalism, while also highlighting the many tensions and contradictions within the organization that sometimes hampered its mission.

In this compelling book, Jennifer Delton argues that NAM—an organization best known for fighting unions, promoting "free enterprise," and defending corporate interests—was also surprisingly progressive. She shows how it encouraged companies to adopt innovations such as safety standards, workers' comp, and affirmative action, and worked with the US government and international organizations to promote the free exchange of goods and services across national borders. While NAM's modernizing and globalizing activities helped to make American industry the most profitable and productive in the world by midcentury, they also eventually led to deindustrialization, plant closings, and the decline of manufacturing jobs.

Taking readers from the Progressive Era and the New Deal to the Reagan Revolution and the Trump presidency, The Industrialists is the story of a powerful organization that fought US manufacturing's political battles, created its economic infrastructure, and expanded its global markets—only to contribute to the widespread collapse of US manufacturing by the close of the twentieth century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691167862
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 04/14/2020
Series: Politics and Society in Modern America , #138
Pages: 358
Sales rank: 1,022,772
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Jennifer A. Delton is professor of history at Skidmore College. She is the author of Rethinking the 1950s: How Anticommunism and the Cold War Made America Liberal; Racial Integration in Corporate America, 1940–1990; and Making Minnesota Liberal: Civil Rights and the Transformation of the Democratic Party.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi

Introduction 1

Part I Ascent, 1895-1940 17

1 Improving Industry 19

2 Expanding Trade 39

3 Fighting Unions 62

4 Managing Labor 83

5 New Deal Blues and Global Boons 107

Part II Dominance, 1940-1980 133

6 The Road to Taft-Hartley 135

7 Trade, Tariffs, and the Postwar Economic Order 159

8 Conservatives vs. Managers 187

9 A Changing Workforce 210

Part III Decline and Recovery, 1960-200 4 237

10 Deindustrialization and the Global Imperative 239

11 Nadir: The Reagan Era 265

12 Back on Track? 291

Epilogue 314

Acknowledgments 317

Selected Bibliography 319

Index 323

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Jennifer Delton has written by far the most comprehensive history of this important organization. This crisply written, deeply researched study illuminates much about the broader history of business politics in the twentieth century."—Kim Phillips-Fein, New York University

"For too long, we have heard only the National Association of Manufacturers' loudest voices—arrogant yet fearful. Delton takes us deeper, revealing a century of pragmatic work helping firms modernize, globalize, and professionalize their management. The Industrialists brilliantly probes NAM's complex internal and external tensions, uncovering a surprising and powerful history of America itself."—Pamela Laird, University of Colorado Denver

"The Industrialists showcases one of America's most accomplished political and business historians at her finest. Delton's provocative book puts the National Association of Manufacturers not on the reactionary fringes but at the center of American capitalism and debates about industrial reform, labor policy, globalization, and neoliberalism."—Benjamin C. Waterhouse, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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