Political currents: David E. Lilienthal and the modern American state

by Field, Gregory Blaise

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation examines the political economy of the United States in the second quarter of the twentieth century, focusing on the public career of David E. Lilienthal. This is not a biography, but rather, uses Lilienthal's career as a lens for viewing the American economy at a time when the relationship between the state and private economic enterprise underwent a profound transformation. A student of Felix Frankfurter at Harvard Law School, Lilienthal went to work as a labor lawyer with Donald Richberg in the aftermath of the 1922 railroad shopcraft strike and helped craft the legislation that culminated in the Railway Labor Act of 1926. During 1931-1933, Lilienthal reorganized the Wisconsin Public Service Commission under Governor Philip La Follette, establishing a reputation as a regulatory activist that resulted in his appointment to the board of the newly-chartered Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). After a protracted struggle with TVA chairman Arthur E. Morgan, Lilienthal gained control of the agency, where he remained until the end of World War II. During the interwar period, Lilienthal was a participant in the formation of what has come to be known as a "Keynesian" political-economic perspective. Working with colleagues such as Frankfurter and social reformer Morris L. Cooke, as well as elements from both corporate capital and organized labor, Lilienthal designed an agenda for aggressive federal intervention in the marketplace with a macroeconomic approach for coordinating the relationship between mass production and mass consumption. Through the Electric Home and Farm Authority's low-cost appliance program, through high-wage, pro-union labor policies at the agency, and most importantly through the TVA's promotion of cheap and plentiful electricity, Lilienthal was experimenting with the growth-oriented policies that came to characterize Keynesianism. This position became prominent in the New Deal during the mid-1930s, creating salients within the federal government of a social democratic state. By the end of the decade, however, political opposition and the conservative implications of this growth perspective moderated the Keynesian agenda for the TVA and the New Deal.
Bibliographical Information:


School:University of Massachusetts Amherst

School Location:USA - Massachusetts

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/1994

© 2009 All Rights Reserved.