Call for Proposals
Business and Politics in 20th Century America
A Conference at the Hagley Museum and Library
Wilmington, Delaware, November 8, 2013
Over the past ten years there has been a surge of new scholarship on the relationship between business and American politics in the twentieth century. Much of this work examines the efforts by business and business people to influence politics, often in response to the growth of the American federal government that began with the Progressive Era and continued with the mid-century New Deal. Many of these finely grained studies draw on, and continue to use, the collections in the Hagley Library. It is fitting, then, to invite scholars working on this topic to come to Hagley to assess the state of knowledge, and discuss new work emerging from research. We are especially interested in papers that address some of the following questions:
• As the spectrum of government activities has expanded in the course of the twentieth century, so too have the range of decisions, policies, and agencies that affect business. Where are the places, including those hidden from view, where businesses and trade associations have sought to influence policy and the parameters of government activity?
• To what extent were business people actually able to mobilize to affect the political process—and how did they achieve this: through lobbying, political contributions, grass roots activism, or other means?
• How widely was the liberal order of an expanded federal state and recognized labor unions accepted by the business community—which individual business people, which industries and sectors were receptive to the liberalism of the postwar years, and which sought to oppose it more openly?
• Why were business people often philosophical critics of this liberal order, while at the same time seeking government initiatives and programs that might work in their favor?
• In what manner, and for what purposes, did business seek to influence the regulation of foreign trade and American foreign policy?
• We often imagine that the varied interests of different business sectors will lead to different politics—to what extent has this been the case? E.g. what important divisions have there been in the business community? Between small and large businesses? Between finance and industry?
• Business is often seen as anti-ideological, focused on short-term profits. But business people—like anyone else—have broader views of the world, political affiliations, religious beliefs, etc. What is the relationship between ideology and interest in business activism?
• Has business activism changed over the postwar years, especially in the 1970s and afterwards?
Papers proposed for the conference should be based on original research and engage with current scholarship. Please submit a 500-word abstract and a c.v. of no more than three pages. Proposals are due by April 30, 2013 and should be sent via email to Carol Lockman, clockman@Hagley.org. Travel support will be available for presenters.
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