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Galbraith, Harrington, Heilbroner

Galbraith, Harrington, Heilbroner: Economics and Dissent in an Age of Optimism

Loren J. Okroi
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 296
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    Galbraith, Harrington, Heilbroner
    Book Description:

    In a remarkably lucid and flowing style, Loren Okroi analyzes the ideas of three leading reformer-critics in the United States and places their main arguments in the context of the economic, social, and political history of postwar America. In so doing, he provides not only a skillful introduction to American social thought since the 1950s but also a wide-ranging examination of the contemporary failures of American liberal ideology. As he explicates the works of these three men--all of whom moved easily between the academic world and the arenas of politics, government, or journalism--it becomes clear that present policy debates have not even begun to resolve the dilemmas their writings have exposed.

    Millions of readers know J. K. Galbraith, the renowned Harvard economist and social theorist who developed the concept of the "New Industrial State"; Michael Harrington, the de facto leader of the American socialist movement who revealed the existence of the "other America"; and Robert Heilbroner, the incisive economic thinker who questioned the naive optimism of Americans even before it significantly eroded in the mid-1970s. In this book they emerge as individuals, as thinkers, and as part of a larger picture of American efforts to reconcile democratic values and humane social goals with modern corporate capitalism.

    The study begins with a portrait of the U.S. economy and society at the end of the Civil War and discusses the momentous changes brought about by the rapid industrialization that followed. The central portion revolves around Galbraith, Harrington, and Heilbroner and explores their contributions to the intellectual and political discourse on key issues confronting America in the decades after 1945: the evolutionary trajectory of managerial capitalism; the persistence of poverty and class divisions; the expansion of the welfare state and the public sector in general; and the assault on welfare capitalism by the New Right in the 1980s. The concluding chapter examines the causes and consequences of the fervent adherence of Americans to liberal ideology, the origins and philosophical bases of that set of beliefs, and its future prospects.

    Originally published in 1988.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5933-7
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Ideas, Institutions, and Intellectuals
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    “Government is not the solution,” President Reagan proclaimed in his first inaugural address, “it’s the problem.” With this statement, summing up his essential philosophy of economics, society, and politics, Ronald Reagan set the tone for an administration that attempted to drastically alter the policies and programs of the previous half century. The extent and durability of the changes Reagan and his followers have set in motion are as yet uncertain; yet the direction and overall thrust of their efforts are unmistakable. They aim at nothing less than the drastic curtailment, if not the eradication, of the institutional legacy of the...


    • Chapter 1 The Great Transformation: American Economic Thought, 1865–1945
      (pp. 3-26)

      A modern novelist once wrote that history is like grass growing: one cannot see it happening. Whatever might be the general validity of this proposition, it is certainly true when applied to virtually all mid-nineteenth-century observers of American economic development. When Abraham Lincoln called upon his countrymen to save the Union from the illiberal philosophy and institutions of a patriarchal, elitist Southern society, he was asking a nation composed of numerous farmers, many small-town dwellers and small businessmen, and some self-employed professionals to join in a crusade that he believed would, among other things, ensure the growth of a liberal,...


    • I The Technological Imperative:: John Kenneth Galbraith and the New Industrial State

      • Chapter 2 The New Capitalism
        (pp. 29-58)

        In the midst of the postwar quandary over America’s economic future, an article entitled “Monopoly and the Concentration of Economic Power” appeared among a collection of essays published on behalf of the American Economic Association under the titleA Survey of Contemporary Economics. The author, recently arrived at Harvard and employed as a lecturer in economics, had been an editor atFortunemagazine the previous year. The article examined the treatment of monopoly and “monopoloid forms” of business enterprise in the scholarly literature of the 1930s and the antitrust action taken during the Roosevelt administration. Discussing the theory that monopoly...

      • Chapter 3 The Industrial State
        (pp. 59-82)

        The Affluent Societyenhanced Galbraith’s growing reputation as an important social theorist and critic, and his writings on current domestic and foreign affairs grew in volume. Even as he pondered these issues, however, his attention was being pulled in another direction. Long an activist in Democratic party politics, Galbraith, who had worked as a speechwriter for Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956, became, along with economist Paul Samuelson, an informal economic adviser to an old acquaintance from his early days at Harvard in the late 1930s—John F. Kennedy. Upon Kennedy’s election to the presidency, Galbraith was persuaded to accept...

      • Chapter 4 Galbraith and American Capitalism
        (pp. 83-108)

        Galbraith’s impact as a social critic has been widely acknowledged, even by most who disagree with his views. But what of the usefulness of his model and theory as tools for an analysis of modern corporate capitalism? How closely, in other words, do modern capitalist economies resemble the New Industrial State? This issue has enormous significance, since Galbraith’s theory implies that “capitalism” as it has been almost universally defined—essentially by private ownership and control of capital in a free market—in a real sense no longer exists in at least half of the American economy. This has, in fact,...

    • II The Ironic Quest:: Michael Harrington and the Socialist Dream

      • Chapter 5 The New Poverty
        (pp. 111-127)

        By the late 1950s most American intellectuals had apparently come to terms with the new order to which capitalism had given birth. With the exception of Galbraith, few serious thinkers had broken with the verities of the past, instead remaining wedded to the revitalized liberal doctrine first enunciated by Lippmann and Croly and now seemingly confirmed by America’s spectacular postwar economic success. Even Galbraith, while breaking with liberal tradition to an ever greater degree as his ideas evolved, did not adopt a literally radical rethinking of liberal theory (that is, one that proceeded from its philosophical roots) until the early...

      • Chapter 6 The Great Society
        (pp. 128-155)

        In January of 1964, shortly after Harrington’s return to the United States, he received a phone call from an old friend, Paul Jacobs, made at the request of Frank Mankiewicz, who, together with Sargent Shriver, had been appointed the day before by President Johnson to work out a program to eradicate poverty. Harrington was asked to come to Washington for lunch. He came, but he was not prepared when “That lunch with Shriver, Mankiewicz, and Jacobs stretched out into two frantic weeks of sixteen-and eighteen-hour work days.” Harrington learned of a “bitter struggle within the government” over the best way...

      • Chapter 7 Harrington and American Socialism
        (pp. 156-176)

        A recurrent theme in Harrington’s writings has been his search for a viable democratic left in America, a country that, virtually alone of all industrialized democracies, has no significant socialist or labor party. Yet Harrington has admitted that he had refrained from even using the word “socialism” in his bookThe Other Americafor fear that it would alienate his readers and distract them from the main themes and problems he wished to discuss. A crucial question which therefore must be addressed in any examination of Harrington’s life and thought is the reason why it has been so difficult for...

    • III Capitalism in Transition:: Robert Heilbroner and the Crisis of Business Civilization

      • Chapter 8 The New Pessimism
        (pp. 179-202)

        During January of 1966 the Dow Jones industrial average reached an interday high of slightly more than 1,000, marking the climax of the most spectacular and longest-lived bull market in American history. The stock market, which had closed the year 1949 at the 200 level, had by the early 1950s exploded in a burst of belated optimism at what seemed to be mounting evidence that this might, after all, be the “American Century” some had predicted at the end of World War II. Taking advantage of the investment opportunities that presented themselves in such abundance during the next decade, many...

      • Chapter 9 The New Right
        (pp. 203-217)

        An Inquiry into the Human Prospectenjoyed a favorable critical response (even by most of those who took issue with some of the book’s conclusions) and a wide circulation. Heilbroner had long since become one of the most successful economics authors of all time, rivaled only by John Kenneth Galbraith and Paul Samuelson, and, despite his reluctance to identify with the economics profession, a respected figure within his discipline. A full professor and chairman of the economics department at the New School for Social Research, he had been appointed to the Norman Thomas Chair in Economics in 1971 and elected...

      • Chapter 10 Heilbroner and Corporate Society
        (pp. 218-238)

        It is obvious that if Heilbroner’s ideas and interpretations are valid, the implications are staggering for every area of social life. It would mean that the prospects for social democracy in America—a development desired by Heilbroner—are considerably more bleak than they would otherwise be, and it is therefore especially vital to come to a reasoned judgment concerning his views. To some extent, an evaluation of Heilbroner’s thought must remain tentative, since much of his work has been of a speculative or predictive nature. This is clearly true of the four specific and closely interrelated problems he sees at...


    • Chapter 11 Economics, Power, Justice: American Liberalism and Democracy
      (pp. 241-262)

      Since the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Americans have confronted a series of critical issues that arose as a direct result of the rapid evolution of a mass industrial society and that challenged the economic, social, and political principles that had guided the nation as a semi-rural society. Since that time they have actively and continually strained to deal not only with the structural changes occurring over the last century, but also with the deeper meanings of those changes for a social order pulled loose to an ever greater extent from its philosophical moorings. Yet because the nation continues...

  8. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 263-270)
  9. Index
    (pp. 271-275)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 276-276)