- Paperback: 356 pages
- Publisher: Free Press; unknown edition (March 1, 1977)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0029166500
- ISBN-13: 978-0029166505
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916 unknown Edition
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Overall, I highly recommend this book. Just be aware of the small caveats you may face while reading this book.
In his "Introduction" to this book, Kolko lays out his fundamental themes explaining that this is not a book about "what might have been" but rather a book about what really did happen. Kolko explains his understanding of "progressivism" which he defines as "a movement for the political rationalization of business and industrial conditions, a movement that operated on the assumption that the general welfare of the community could be best served by satisifying the concrete needs of business." Kolko explains how business interests sought to achieve control over politics in order to achieve their goal of "political capitalism" (which Kolko defines as "the utilization of political outlets to attain conditions of stability, predictability, and security - to attain rationalization - in the economy"). Kolko explains how business interests sought the intervention of the federal government in business and the return of the Hamiltonian unity of politics and economics. Kolko remarks on the theories of Karl Marx noting that both Marx and Weber (as opposed to "Marxists") both noted that the central development of the economic trend of capitalism was towards centralization. Chapter One is entitled "Monopolies and Mergers: Predictions and Promises". Kolko explains how his interpretation differs from that of most historians (including many conservative historians) who see concentration of economic power as an inevitable result of the growth of capitalism and industrialism. Kolko explains how the monopoly was seen as "inevitable" ("The Inevitable Monopoly") and shows how men such as John D. Rockefeller came to argue that. Kolko also considers "Mergers and Promoters" noting how many argued that monopoly led to greater efficiency. Chapter Two is entitled "Competition and Decentralization: The Failure to Rationalize Industry". Kolko explains how the first decades of last century involved intense competition, however this competition resulted in a failure to rationalize industry and many industrialists found that overcentralization was less efficient. Kolko points out cases of this in "The Iron and Steel Industry", "The Oil Industry", "The Automobile Industry", "The Agricultural Machinery Industry", "The Telephone Industry", "The Copper Industry", and "The Meat Packing Industry". Chapter Three is entitled "Theodore Roosevelt and the Foundations of Political Capitalism, 1901 - 1904" which shows how the efforts of Morgan to rationalize and stabilize industries were leading to failure which resulted in the call for antitrust legislation from Roosevelt. Kolko considers the use of Social Darwinism by prominent conservative intellectuals and professors as a justification for laissez-faire, but shows how ultimately big business was to lead the move towards regulation. Kolko also shows how with various reform movements such as the Grangers, Populists, and trade unionists, change seemed inevitable. Kolko considers such topics as "The Antitrust Legacy" (of Theodore Roosevelt and the Sherman Antitrust Act), "A New President" (mentioning various aspects of Roosevelt's presidency), and "The Executive and Business". Chapter Four is entitled "Roosevelt as Reformer: 1904 - 1906" and considers the case of Roosevelt as reformer mentioning such topics as "Roosevelt as Reformer", "Insurance and Regulation", "Meat Inspection: Theory and Reality" (explaining the role of the muckrakers and Upton Sinclaire). Chapter Five is entitled "Roosevelt and Big Business: 1906 - 1908" and explains the role of Roosevelt and his relationship with big business mentioning such topics as "The Good Trusts" and "The Evil Trusts" (and the false dichotomy between them), "The Rule of Reason", and "The Attempt at Political Consolidation". Chapter Six is entitled "The Failure of Finance Capitalism: 1890 - 1908" and explains the failure of finance capitalism and the call for banking reform mentioning in particular the Morgan interests. This chapter includes topics discussing "Banking Reform Movements: 1893 - 1903" (mentioning the role of "Bryanism" and silver), "Roosevelt and Banking Reform", and "The Panic of 1907" (which led to the Aldrich Bill). Chapter Seven is entitled "The Ordeal of William Howard Taft: 1909 - 1911" explaining how William Howard Taft took up the legacy of Roosevelt. This chapter includes topics discussing "The Legacy of Reform", "Taft the Trustbuster", "U.S. Steel and Roosevelt", "Business and Regulation", and "The Banking Reform Movement" (explaining centralization of banking and the Aldrich Plan). Chapter Eight is entitled "The Politics of 1912" and includes such topics as "A Party is Formed" (explaining the role of the Progressive Party) and "The Democratic Victory" (explaining how the victory of Woodrow Wilson was achieved). Chapter Nine is entitled "Woodrow Wilson and the Triumph of Political Capitalism: Banking" which discusses how centralization of banking was achieved. This chapter includes topics discussing "Writing a Reform Bill", "The Bankers and the Glass Bill", "The Authorship of the Federal Reserve Act", and "The Fruits of Victory". Chapter Ten is entitled "The Triumph of Political Capitalism: The Federal Trade Commission and Trust Legislation" explaining how Wilson's "conservativism" under the guidance of Colonel House led to further regulation, the triumph of political capitalism. This chapter includes sections discussing "Wilson and Business", "The Campaign for Legislation", "The End of the New Freedom", and "The Commission Defines the Law". Kolko ends with a chapter entitled "Conclusion: The Lost Democracy" which discusses the fact that regulation was achieved to further the ends of business during the Progressive Era and that such regulation allowed for the triumph of political capitalism. Kolko discusses such topics as "Marx and Weber: Economics Versus Politics" (explaining how Marx and Weber misunderstood much of the goals of business and capitalism and explaining how Thorstein Vebel of all the economists of the Progressive Era offered the most trenchant understanding), and "Theory and the American Reality" (in which the author considers whether political capitalism changed after 1916 and whether the economic structure of the United States could have been different). Kolko ends by noting that the Progressive Era was noted by a failure of alternatives to grow and develop which ultimately led to the shaping of American economic civilization into the twentieth century and beyond.
This book offers a fascinating reinterpretation of the Progressive Era which attempts to show that business leaders to achieve their interests promoted regulation to stifle competition and achieve consolidation and centralization. This process is frequently referred to as "corporatism" and called "political capitalism" by Kolko. Kolko shows how through the machinery of politics big business was able to use the state to further its own interests and maintain monopoly power. This is an important book to read and understand if one wants to understand the economic history of the United States and the role of regulation as supported by business interests.