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Designs within Disorder
Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Economists, and the Shaping of American Economic Policy, 1933–1945


Part of Historical Perspectives on Modern Economics

  • Date Published: December 2006
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521034319

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About the Authors
  • More than any of his predecessors in the White House, Franklin D. Roosevelt drew heavily on the thinking of economists as he sought to combat the Great Depression, to mobilize the American economy for war, and to chart a new order for the post-war world. Designs Within Disorder, published in 1996, is an inquiry into the way divergent analytic perspectives competed for official favour and the manner in which the President opted to pick and choose among them when formulating economic policies. During the Roosevelt years, two 'revolutions' were underway simultaneously. One of them involved a fundamental restructuring of the American economy and of the role government was to play in it. A second was an intellectual revolution which engaged economists in reconceptualizing the nature of their discipline. Most of the programmatic initiatives Roosevelt put in place displayed a remarkable staying power for over half a century.

    • Looks at the interactions of Roosevelt, professional economists and the making of American economic policy from 1933–45
    • Based on research at the Roosevelt archives in Hyde Park, NY, and the Library of Congress
    • Author's comparable work on Hoover (1921–1933) has sold over 1,800 HB and PB; narrative is completely accessible, written in jargon-free English
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Barber has written a fascinating sequel to his From New Era to New Deal. Together, these books give us a superb - indeed, our very best - history of the role economists played in shaping federal policy between 1921 and 1945. Because he has done his homework in the archives, Barber is able to document the clash of competing ideas within the federal government, to demonstrate the linkages between ideas and policy, and to show us how the experiences of New Deal economists shaped the development of economic knowledge. In the process of explaining how Franklin Roosevelt organized the work of the economists, Barber favors us with a novel interpretation of Roosevelt - as 'an uncompromising champion of consumer sovereignty'.' W. Elliot Brownlee, University of California, Santa Barbara

    'A society that grants enormous authority to economists in government had better pay attention to what and how they think. In this fine study, one of our leading historians of economic thought, William Barber, cuts to the core of the connection between economic knowledge and public policy during the New Deal. Barber shows how the dream of a full-fledged 'Fisc' to match the 'Fed' was blighted, and his emphasis on 'economic learning' - theoretical breakthroughs achieved experimentally, through the deliberative processes of governance - adds an important dimension to the typical new institutionalist preoccupation with structural constraints such as federalism. Barber;s shrewd observations about the not-so-positive implications for today of the low-savings, high-consumption lessons the Keynesians taught are thought-provoking. In all, this is an important book for all those interested in the critical debates that shaped the course of modern liberalism.' Mary O. Furner, University of California, Santa Barbara

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2006
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521034319
    • length: 192 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 11 mm
    • weight: 0.299kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Guide to abbreviations in citations of sources
    1. Stage setting in the presidential campaign of 1932
    2. Curtain raising in the first hundred days
    3. Deployments in the second half of 1933
    4. Rethinking the structuralist agenda (I): the fate of NRA, 1934–5
    5. Rethinking the structuralist agenda (II): the fate of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, 1934-6
    6. Rethinking macroeconomic strategies, 1934–6
    7. Shock tremors and their repercussions, 1937–8
    8. Toward a new 'official model,' 1939–40
    9. Designs for the management of an economy at war
    10. Designs for the postwar world
    Bibliographical note

  • Author

    William J. Barber, Wesleyan University, Connecticut

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