Great Depression/Culture Essay, Research Paper
Question: What did the New Deal change in American society? What in our society did it not change? How much credit should World War II be given for ending the Depression? Has the New Deal impact on present day culture and social values, as well as on economic philosophy and actual distribution of wealth been limited or extensive?
This is a great question, but one that you really should puzzle out for yourself on the basis of your readings–so I will say only a bit to try to help get you started.
Historians have long debated how “revolutionary” was the ” New Deal.” A good account of this can be found in Carl Degler’s OUT OF OUR PAST. Suffice it to say that some historians have seen the changes as drastic, and others have argued that really the New Deal started and ended with a capitalistic premise. You can find programs that support both points of view: TVA, Greenbelt, these were pretty radical departures from anything that had been done by the Federal government previously. The NRA was really more like something Herbert Hoover might have done but on a larger scale, and in fact FDR kept the RFC which had been passed under the Hoover administration. So you can see, just looking at New Deal programs, that both arguments can be made.
As to the end of the depression being brought on by the war, there is less debate. The New Deal programs made a dent in the unemployment figures because FDR increased government spending, but not sufficiently to end the Depression. The war increased government spending beyond anything imaginable and obliterated the Depression.
As to the current impact, well this is up to you decide. One historian who titled his book IN THE SHADOW OF FDR argues that all Presidents since have been measured by the expectations created under Franklin Roosevelt, and certainly his influence on political figures from Truman, Kennedy, Johnson to Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich is evident.
Prepared by AACProfSue, AAC Staff
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