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Capital Gains
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Capital Gains
Business and Politics in Twentieth-Century America

Edited by Richard R. John and Kim Phillips-Fein

312 pages | 6 x 9
Cloth 2016 | ISBN 9780812248821 | $59.95s | Outside the Americas £48.00
Paper 2019 | ISBN 9780812224481 | $27.50s | Outside the Americas £20.99
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Hagley Perspectives on Business and Culture
View table of contents and excerpt

"Capital Gains provides nuanced and reasoned assessments which combine to form a great contribution to the history of capitalism and the shifting U.S. political economy."—Reviews in American History

"With Capital Gains: Business and Politics in Twentieth-Century America, Richard John and Kim Phillips-Fein have brought together a collection of important essays on the relationship of business and politics in the twentieth century. Moving well beyond portrayals of business leaders as robber barons or industrial statesmen, the chapters, which proceed in chronological fashion, range in focus from local boosterism to military spending to corporate civil rights. . . . Taken as a whole, the authors sound a clarion call for the new kinds of questions scholars are asking about modern political economy."—Business History Review

"An outstanding book. The volume is sound from a scientific perspective, grounded in primary sources and wide archival research, and, at the same time, contributes remarkably to our knowledge in this field. This is due both to the new empirical evidence provided, and to the fact that it builds on different disciplines such as political history, business history, political science, historical sociology, and history of capitalism. This multidisciplinary attitude allows the reader to reconstruct effectively the complexity of businessmen's approach to the political world, as well as improving our understanding of government interaction with business elites."—The Economic History Review

"The essays collected for Capital Gains are eminently readable. Each stands on its own as a fascinating snapshot into topics as varied as antitrust and patent law, the public-university system, anti-Vietnam protests, and the history of workplace diversity initiatives. More importantly, these essays together help to contextualize the rise of corporate power in the twentieth-century United States."—The Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"With Capital Gains, the scholarly push to revive political economy and craft a new history of twentieth century business, politics, and capitalism has found its vehicle. No longer can we cast 'business elites' as the thoughtless tools of the capitalist machine. Through rich, compelling archival research and authoritative historiographical analysis, these sophisticated essays make a powerful case for business as a multidimensional, ideologically diverse set of historical actors."—Benjamin Waterhouse, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

"What is the most productive way to study the history of capitalism? The authors in this volume pursue a multidisciplinary approach and believe in the importance of institutions and public policy. For these reasons, Capital Gains is a valuable contribution to the historiography of the twentieth-century United States."—Kenneth Lipartito, Florida International University

Recent events—the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and efforts to increase the minimum wage, among others—have driven a tremendous surge of interest in the political power of business. Capital Gains collects some of the most innovative new work in the field. The chapters explore the influence of business on American politics in the twentieth century at the federal, state, and municipal levels. From corporate spending on city governments in the 1920s to business support for public universities in the postwar period, and from business opposition to the Vietnam War to the corporate embrace of civil rights, the contributors reveal an often surprising portrait of the nation's economic elite.

Contrary to popular mythology, business leaders have not always been libertarian or rigidly devoted to market fundamentalism. Before, during, and after the New Deal, important parts of the business world sought instead to try to shape what the state could accomplish and to make sure that government grew in ways that were favorable to them. Appealing to historians working in the fields of business history, political history, and the history of capitalism, these essays highlight the causes, character, and consequences of business activism and underscore the centrality of business to any full understanding of the politics of the twentieth century—and today.

Contributors: Daniel Amsterdam, Brent Cebul, Jennifer Delton, Tami Friedman, Eric Hintz, Richard R. John, Pamela Walker Laird, Kim Phillips-Fein, Laura Phillips Sawyer, Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, Eric Smith, Jason Scott Smith, Mark R. Wilson.

Richard R. John is Professor of History at Columbia University.
Kim Phillips-Fein is Associate Professor in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University.

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