THE ECONOMIC MIND IN AMERICAN CIVILIZATION: Vols. IV & V by Joseph Dorfman

THE ECONOMIC MIND IN AMERICAN CIVILIZATION: Vols. IV & V

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A tremendous project, launched with Vols. I & II in 1945, continued with Vol. III in 1949 (available respectively for $10 and $7.50) presented our national history through the pattern of economic thought, and established a sense of continuity in problems such as wages, labor organization, foreign and domestic trade, while indicating that it took a century for us to divorce ourselves from the roots in our colonial heritage to a shift from foreign to domestic issues. In these volumes the focus on personalities that helped formulate our economic thinking provided the major factor of general interest, while the basic principles laid down on the foundations of economic philosophy may well provide a permanent text for students. As Dorfman approached our own times (the 1949 volume carried through World War I) this sense of continuing thread was still evident in the theories of Veblen, Wesley Mitchell, Taussig, Seligman and others, many of whom reappear in the new volumes, which complete the history, up to the inauguration of the New Deal. But in these years new economic ideas flourished, the pace changed, and the presentation is more in the nature of brilliant analysis of the thinking of economic leaders than in their personalities, whether they be formal thinkers and teachers, experts in techniques, or informal commentators and public figures. The reconversion after the Armistice, the prosperity of the '20's, the Depression, theories of business cycles, the rise and fall of technocracy, the radical reform movements, the increased trend towards economists in government, industry and labor, changing theories of monetary policies, of agricultural programs and so on. To many it will come as a surprise how much of this development took place before its actual acceptance under the New Deal. Acceptance was reluctant but inevitable of the necessity of government regulation. On the other hand, factors we feel are not new actually grew in these years:- mail order business, the franchise system, retail food store chains, scientific management techniques- all accepted in today's economy. Among the key figures who played their part in these developments and others were such men as Samuel Gompers, Howard Scott, the La Follettes, John Dewey, Franz Boas, the Beards, Parrington, Richard Ely, Allyn Young, Irving Fisher, Edwin Kemmerer, John Commons, David Friday, Paul Douglas, and prominent later in shaping the New Deal, Rex Tugwell, one of the few not taken unprepared by the Crash. The book ends with the radical steps proposed- and some of them taken- during the depression, and the variety of plans put forward to meet it and prevent its recurrence. The role of the federal government became an accepted one. Tremendously important- for the long haul.

Pub Date: May 29th, 1959
Publisher: Viking