The United States during the early decades of the 20th Century was a nation at the dawn of a transition politically, economically and socially in the United State. It is during this time that the relationship between employers, employees, and the United States government would change dramatically. The United States by the mid-1930's will see the federal government assume a greater role in the business and personal lives of its citizens. Lizabeth Cohen's book Making A New Deal and Jennifer Klein's book For All These Rights discuss these transformations within the United States during this time period. These two authors wrote two different social histories of this era but the historical approach taken by these two authors differs in content and view point. In this paper, I will critique the similarities and differences between these two books.
Lizabeth Cohen approaches the social, working, and economic conditions from a "bottom up" approach that is generated from the perspective of the individual. She examines industrial workers attempts to understand how and why workers came together during the Great Depression and the New Deal to. They formed a strong coalition that was able to mobilize the union movement. The thesis of Cohen's book is ”explaining how it was possible and what it meant for industrial workers to become effective as national political participants in the mid-1930's, after having sustained defeats in 1919 and having refrained from unionism and national politics during the 1920's."
The approach taken by Jennifer Klein is different. She examines welfare capitalism from the early 20th century to the 1960's. In her book, she discusses, "...viewing the 1930's as a definitive break, a chasm separating welfare capitalism from the welfare state and from collective bargaining, I emphasize continuity in the provision of social benefits from the 1920's, into the post-World War II period." Klein like Cohen takes a social history approach to her analysis, but Klein's approach examines the early 20th Century, the Great Depression, and beyond from the perspective of the insurance industry and corporations, a top down approach. Klein spends most of her book discussing the impact of government legislation and policies on companies. Her book discusses the insurance industry and the corporate reaction and interpretation to these changes.
A major difference between the two authors is their approach to welfare capitalism and its impact on workers. According to Cohen, employers during the early 20th Century believed that "Workers had to be driven to labor efficiently and respect the boss's authority." During the 1920's employers sought to change this relationship with employees to satisfy worker complaints, quell the fear of labor militancy, and to prevent unions from entering into corporations during the 1920's. Welfare capitalism helped to create an "enlightened corporation."
These enlightened corporations created a...