THE NEW DEAL by Kiran Klaus Patel


A Global History
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A deep, scholarly dive into the New Deal and how it relates to the world’s attempts to deal with what he calls the “Great Slump.”

The Depression was not entirely caused by the stock market crash. In great, sometimes overwhelming detail, Patel (European and Global History/Maastricht Univ.; Soldiers of Labor: Labor Service in Nazi Germany and New Deal America, 1933 to 1945, 2005, etc.) shows how the destabilizing effects of World War I caused the collapse of states and empires and how the reparations required by the Treaty of Versailles left an insurmountable burden on Germany. Franklin Roosevelt proposed an easing of those payments to European countries but did not offer to ease the debt they owed to the United States, which they couldn’t pay without the reparations. As such, nearly everyone defaulted. Europe and the world were slipping, economic chaos spurred coups, and dictatorships were replacing democracies. The author notes that democracy was considered boring, while fascism and communism were considered more innovative. It was time for the U.S. to take the global economic and political lead, but the nation wasn’t yet ready. Instead, it turned inward, cut lending, raised tariffs, and fixed prices. The New Deal was not only an alphabet soup of institutions, it was an amalgam of ideas culled from all over the world, in places where pensions and unemployment insurance were already established. At the time, Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini were admired for their successes in creating labor services, education, and housing. Many New Deal plans had distinct similarities to their programs, which unfortunately included racism, expansionism, and control of their inhabitants. The author shows how all nations turned to nationalism, social engineering of planned communities, intervention, and insulation to seek security and recovery.

This book provides much to study and reread. Though mostly well-written, the narrative is factually dense, intense, and often verbose. It should be useful to economists, researchers, and specialists in the Depression and its aftermath.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-691-14912-7
Page count: 424pp
Publisher: Princeton Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2015


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