During an economic crisis that evokes comparisons to the Great Depression, many historians are arguing that the New Deal has never been more relevant.
The Center for History, Society and Culture is sponsoring “The New Deal Now,“ a two-hour public forum that will feature three historians from three different universities. The event will begin today at 5 p.m. at the University Club, located in the Arboretum just across from Mrak Hall and next to Wyatt Pavilion.
The panel includes David Kennedy, a professor emeritus of history from Stanford and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945.
Andrew Cohen and Sarah Phillips, history professors and New Deal scholars from Syracuse and Columbia Universities, respectively, will join Kennedy.
As many historians have drawn parallels between the elections of and economic crises facing Obama and Roosevelt, the New Deal has once again been up for debate, Cohen said.
“It seems the recent election has made the history of the 1930s a charged political topic, so it’s especially important we understand the subject,” Cohen said in an e-mail interview.
Cohen, the author of The Racketeer’s Progress: Chicago and the Struggle for the Modern American Economy, 1900-1940, said he will discuss several aspects of the New Deal.
“First, I’ll discuss the scholarship describing the New Deal’s impact on seemingly unrelated areas of American life, such as criminal justice, the environment [and] gender roles,” Cohen said.
“Second, I’ll talk about research into the New Deal’s impact on understudied populations, like Southerners, Westerners and the lower middle class. Third, I’ll argue that historians need to re-consider traditional explanations for why the New Deal happened in the 1930s,” Cohen said.
Phillips, a scholar of the New Deal’s conservation and agricultural policy, said she will discuss how historians‘ interpretations have evolved over time.
“Now there seems to be a very hopeful convergence between scholarly assessments of New Deal liberalism and all the current talk of the need and opportunity for another New Deal now,” Phillips said.
Phillips said she will argue how the New Deal’s conservation and agricultural policy is a helpful model given the United States‘ current long-term investment in green energy, jobs and food.
Kennedy, who could not be reached for an interview by press time, is noted for his “integration of economic and cultural analysis with social and political history,” according to his Stanford University faculty page. He has taught history at Stanford since 1967.
The forum is being sponsored by the Institute of Governmental Affairs and the Center for History, Society and Culture, which “fosters research across social science boundaries,” said its director, Eric Rauchway.
Rauchway, a professor of history at UC Davis and New Deal scholar himself, said the CHSC will host seven more events this year, all of which will be targeted to general audiences.
PATRICK McCARTNEY can be reached at email@example.com