Episode 24: Jefferson Cowie on American Politics and the Legacy of the New Deal

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In 2009, Ben Sawyer read Jefferson Cowie’s Capital Moves while studying for his doctoral exams, and he loved it. In 2016, Jeff joined the department of history at Vanderbilt, conveniently located about 5 miles from Ben’s house in Nashville. Upon learning of Jeff’s move, Ben quickly wrote to ask if he’d be a guest on The Road to Now. Jeff said yes, and we’re happy to say he’s as impressive in an interview as he is in print.

In our interview, Bob and Ben speak with Jeff about Capitol Moves as well as the books he’s written since then, which have explored the history of the working class and American politics in the 20th Century. Jeff explains the central argument of his most recent book, The Great Exception: The New Deal & The Limits of American Politics, and why he thinks looking back to New Deal policies is unproductive in 21st Century America. The conversation also touches on several important topics including outsourcing, ObamaCare, Social Security, & workers’ rights, and the ways history can help us make better decisions as we address these issues moving forward.

                                     Dr. Jefferson Cowie

                                     Dr. Jefferson Cowie

Dr. Jefferson Cowie holds the James G. Stahlman Chair in the Department of History at Vanderbilt University. Prior to moving to Vanderbilt in 2016, he taught at Cornell University for eighteen years.

Recorded October 8, 2016 at Vanderbilt University w/ Bob via video call.

Links:
-Jefferson Cowie's Website
-Jefferson Cowie, The Great Exception: The New Deal & The Limits of American Politics, (Princeton University Press, 2016).
-Jefferson Cowie, Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class, (The New Press, 2010). 
-Jefferson Cowie, Capital Moves: RCA's Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor, (Cornell University Press, 1999).