Crucible of Freedom: Workers' Democracy in the Industrial Heartland, 1914–1960

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9780739122396: Crucible of Freedom: Workers' Democracy in the Industrial Heartland, 1914–1960

This book explores the relation between democracy and industrialization in United States history. Over the course of the 1930s, the political center almost disappeared as the Democratic New Deal became the litmus test of class, with blue collar workers providing its bedrock of support while white collar workers and those in the upper-income levels opposed it. By 1948 the class cleavage in American politics was as pronounced as in many of the Western European countries-such as France, Italy, Germany, or Britain-with which we usually associate class politics.

Working people created a new America in the 1930s and 1940s which was a fundamental departure from the feudalistic and hierarchical America that existed before. They won the political rights of American citizenship which had been previously denied them. They democratized labor-capital relations and gained more economic security than they had ever known. They obtained more economic opportunity for them and their children than they had ever known and they created a respect for ethnic workers, which had not previously existed. In the process, class politics re-defined the political agenda of America as-for the first time in American history-the political universe polarized along class lines. Eric Leif Davin explores the meaning of the New Deal political mobilization by ordinary people by examining the changes it brought to the local, county, and state levels in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, and Pennsylvania as a whole.

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From the Back Cover:

"Based on a 1999 dissertation completed at the University of Pittsburgh, this book is the product of the author's decades-long engagement with the working-class history of western Pennsylvania. Gathered over those many years, Davin's research is astonishing . . . for its depth of detail. His mastery of ward level politics in Pittsburgh and the surrounding steel towns is unquestionable. So too is his grasp of the importance that religion played in the lives and politics of Pennsylvania workers. . . .Readers need not accept all of Davin's characterizations and judgments to recognize his book as a remarkable and formidable work of history. This is a book to be read and reckoned with by anyone who seeks to understand the nature of the political transformation that swept across industrial America during the Great Depression and World War II. Eric Leif Davin deserves our gratitude for having created such a vivid portrait of what E. P. Thompson might have called Steel Valley's 'working-class presence' at a moment when workers helped reshape the direction of both their region's and their nation's politics."-- LABOR: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas

About the Author:

Eric Leif Davin, Ph.D., teaches American labor history at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the winner of the Eugene V. Debs Foundation's Bryant Spann Memorial Prize in Literature for his historical writing and author of "Radicals in Power: The New Left Experience in Office." 

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