Chapter

Industrial Democracy versus Free Enterprise

Wendy L. Wall

in Inventing the "American Way"

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780195329100
Published online January 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199870226 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195329100.003.0003
 Industrial Democracy versus Free Enterprise

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In the late 1930s, New Dealers, industrial unionists, and business groups led by the National Association of Manufacturers seized on the language of Americanism and launched public efforts to define the nation in ways that furthered their own political and social agendas. All addressed Americans’ desire to be free of want, and all attempted to connect economic and political concerns. Beyond that, however, they framed issues in profoundly different ways. President Roosevelt, CIO leaders, and others in the New Deal coalition stressed the majoritarian overtones of the word “democracy,” and called for an activist government to ensure Americans’ economic security. Industrialists and their allies, by contrast, emphasized individual rights and the libertarian dimensions of American “freedom.” The ensuing battle—pitting “democracy” against “freedom,” mutualism against individualism, and a progressive ethos against interclass unity—presaged contests that would continue into the postwar era.

Keywords: President Roosevelt; New Deal; CIO; National Association of Manufacturers; economic security; majoritarian democracy; individual rights; free enterprise

Chapter.  12013 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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