Social Retreat and Economic Stagnation

Social Retreat and Economic Stagnation

On this eve of the 1980s, American capitalism is in the midst of a crisis that bewilders the conventional wisdom of both liberals and conservatives. The nation is, in a sense, in a period resembling the years between 1919 and 1933: a critical problem has emerged that the established theory can neither comprehend nor master; the old order is cracked, the new order has not yet emerged. Then it was the mass unemployment of the Great Depression that could not be understood or controlled; now it is simultaneous joblessness and inflation.

The working people of America are under attack. During the ’70s, their real buying power declined in four out of eight years; the average manufacturing wage in 1977 was $103.97, or $6.00 less than in 1972. A moderate proposal to give unorganized workers the democratic right to choose a union was defeated in Congress last year as the corporate rich mounted an effective onslaught, a class struggle from the right.

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Duggan | University of California Press Gardels