Developmental State: The Politics of Business, Poverty, and Economic Empowerment from the New Deal to the New Democrats

Cebul, Randall, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Balogh, Brian, Department of History, University of Virginia

“Developmental State” is a comparative social and political economic history of economic development policies in the twentieth century Rustbelt and Sunbelt from the New Deal to the New Democrats. Emphasizing federalism and localism, the project compares two regions generally taken to be historiographical antipodes: the “Rustbelt” region in and around Cleveland, Ohio and the expanding Sunbelt around Rome, Georgia. The project illuminates the national convergence upon similar visions of urban and regional development. This vision submerged robust, federally funded local and regional industrial development policies beneath free market rhetoric and public-private partnerships led by local business leaders and civil society elites. “Developmental State” maps the highly ambiguous, hotly contested, and often misunderstood boundaries between public and private, local and national – terrain upon which the poor, marginalized, business interests, and leaders of local community organizations all jockeyed for position. By tracking the way local chamber of commerce members and other civic leaders lobbied for and administered federal poverty and development programs, the project highlights their constitutive role in forging and administering the developmental state and its diverse policies: from New Deal works programs through Urban Renewal to the War on Poverty and Clinton’s Opportunity Zones. In doing so, “Developmental State” reveals the ways in which the United States’ decentralized system of associational and public-private governance created and closed off opportunities for certain forms of community and economic growth.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
federalism, development, business, localism, rustbelt, sunbelt, poverty
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