LIBERAL: Adolf A. Berle and the Vision of an American Era by Jordan A. Schwarz

LIBERAL: Adolf A. Berle and the Vision of an American Era

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A biography of one of the great intellectual forces of the New Deal years, by the author of The Speculator: Bernard M. Baruch in Washington (1981). Berle's career was multifold; besides being a good portion of the brain trust behind FDR and Fiorello LaGuardia, he was a high-powered corporation lawyer, a legal scholar of note, and a seminal writer (his The Modern Corporation and Private Property became a manifesto for rescuingthe nation from the Depression via public planning). In addition, he became one of the country's experts on Latin America, where he was a staunch promoter of ""Good Neighbor"" diplomacy. Berle's family was obsessed with a sense of mission. Adolf grew up assuming the halls of power were his birthright. When he left the service of Robert Moses in New York in 1938 to join the New Deal, he characteristically signed off by telling Moses, ""Bob, it's all very well for you to fuss with street openings. As for me, I'm off to settle the Chinese question."" It isn't apparent what actual ""settling"" he did. But Schwarz makes clear his contributions as a theorist, often overlooked in the public perception because of his propensity to come across as ""difficult, irascible, prickly, obnoxious, and arrogant."" Berle himself had a self-image as an intellectual broker--""the Marx of the shareholding class, a great social critic who rallied people to corporate liberalism."" Backed by impressive research, Schwarz's biography proves a ""life and times"" in the best tradition.

Pub Date: Nov. 23rd, 1987
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan