Labor History Seminar New Book Symposium | Newberry

Labor History Seminar New Book Symposium

The Myth of Liberal Ascendency: Corporate Dominance from the Great Depression to the Great Recession, G. William Domhoff
Saturday, October 18, 2014


Ruggles Hall

Center for American History and Culture Programs
Labor History Seminar

The Newberry Labor History Seminar Book Symposium celebrates recent work in the field of Labor History with a day of rigorous discussion.

This year, the Symposium will examine G. William Domhoff’s most recent text, The Myth of Liberal Ascendancy: Corporate Dominance from the Great Depression to the Great Recession (Paradigm Press, 2013).

“It is commonly accepted that America saw the rise of liberalism in the wake of the New Deal, especially during the three decades after World War II. Based on new archival research, G. William Domhoff reveals this period instead as one of increasing corporate dominance in government affairs, affecting the fate of American workers up to the present day.

While FDR’s New Deal brought sweeping legislation, the tide turned quickly after 1938. From that year onward nearly every major new economic law passed by Congress showed the mark of corporate dominance. The influential Committee for Economic Development was a guiding force for presidential administrations and congressional leaders. Domhoff accessibly portrays documents of the Committee’s vital influence in the halls of government, supported by his interviews with several of its key employees and trustees. In terms of economic influence, liberalism was on a long steady decline, despite two decades of post-war growing equality.

Ironically, it was the successes of the civil rights, feminist, environmental, and gay-lesbian movements—not a new corporate mobilization—that led to the final defeat of the liberal-labor alliance after 1968. These cultural successes generated just enough backlash to turn whites toward the Republican Party. It then became possible for the corporate community to solve its emerging economic and political problems through the offshore manufacturing and high interest rates that killed off inflation and the power of unions.” (Paradigm Press)

Praise for Domhoff and The Myth of Liberal Ascendancy: Corporate Dominance from the Great Depression to the Great Recession:

“No one who wants to claim understanding of the nature of American economic policy can ignore this work. Domhoff has meticulously scrutinized dozens of episodes over the last half century in the endless political battle to achieve a semblance of economic fairness and social justice. As the story unfolds, we see the ways that corporate power has profoundly restricted the capacity of government to promote equality of opportunity and economic security—even when some headway was being made. Those who think they know that story will find in this work a great deal of news and much to challenge their presuppositions.”
—Richard Flacks, University of California, Santa Barbara

“This is a beautifully written inquiry into how the United States moved so far to the political right in recent decades. Professor Domhoff provides a careful analysis of one of the most dramatic and important transitions of our times: the transformation from relative equality during most of the years immediately before and after World War II, to a world in which a well-organized and politically-engaged corporate community accelerated a movement to the right, starting in the 1970’s. In addition to making an important contribution to understanding historic political shifts, this book also contributes to our understanding of patterns of inequality and the concentration of social and financial resources in the hands of a small portion of the population. The book is a must-read for sociologists, economists, political scientists, historians, and anyone who cares about inequality.
Lisa A. Keister, Duke University

Moderator: Erik Gellman, Roosevelt University

Respondents: Eric Arnesen, George Washington University; Shana Bernstein, Northwestern University; Jack Metzgar, Roosevelt University; Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, Loyola University Chicago

Cost and Registration Information 

If you plan to attend, please contact the Scholl Center at for a chapter of the text. Please do not request a copy unless you plan to attend.

Deadline for registration is October 15, 2015. Lunch will be provided for those who register by the deadline.