New Democracy: The Creation of the Modern American State (Hardback)
  • New Democracy: The Creation of the Modern American State (Hardback)

New Democracy: The Creation of the Modern American State (Hardback)

Hardback 384 Pages
Published: 29/03/2022
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The activist state of the New Deal started forming decades before the FDR administration, demonstrating the deep roots of energetic government in America.

In the period between the Civil War and the New Deal, American governance was transformed, with momentous implications for social and economic life. A series of legal reforms gradually brought an end to nineteenth-century traditions of local self-government and associative citizenship, replacing them with positive statecraft: governmental activism intended to change how Americans lived and worked through legislation, regulation, and public administration. The last time American public life had been so thoroughly altered was in the late eighteenth century, at the founding and in the years immediately following.

William J. Novak shows how Americans translated new conceptions of citizenship, social welfare, and economic democracy into demands for law and policy that delivered public services and vindicated people’s rights. Over the course of decades, Americans progressively discarded earlier understandings of the reach and responsibilities of government and embraced the idea that legislators and administrators in Washington could tackle economic regulation and social-welfare problems. As citizens witnessed the successes of an energetic, interventionist state, they demanded more of the same, calling on politicians and civil servants to address unfair competition and labor exploitation, form public utilities, and reform police power.

Arguing against the myth that America was a weak state until the New Deal, New Democracy traces a steadily aggrandizing authority well before the Roosevelt years. The United States was flexing power domestically and intervening on behalf of redistributive goals for far longer than is commonly recognized, putting the lie to libertarian claims that the New Deal was an aberration in American history.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674260443
Number of pages: 384
Dimensions: 235 x 156 mm


Superb…Bound to become a landmark in constructing the map of governance’s constitutional history…A major contribution to an overall narrative of U.S. constitutional development. - Mark Tushnet, Balkinization

Emphasizes the dramatic departure of the modern American state from its roots…Novak expertly weaves together intellectual, legal, and political history to show that the critical turning point in American politics came during the Progressive era…A useful complement to the ongoing study of the critical decision points that led us to our present moment. - Joseph Postell, Claremont Review of Books

Novak deftly examines how Dewey and other progressive reformers reimagined the state to meet the challenges of their own time…Deeply researched and beautifully organized. - Kate Masur, Tocqueville 21

An enlightening analysis of the intellectual and theoretical underpinnings of policies enacted in [the Progressive Era]…Antitrust aficionados and general history nerds will also find much to like here…Novak has synthesized a vast amount of material for readers interested in discovering how we arrived at the current state of antitrust law. - Claude Marx, FTC Watch

A dazzling historical blueprint of progressive reform with utmost pressing relevance for our immediate future. - Orly Lobel, Yale Journal on Regulation

Novak has done us all an extraordinary service in bringing together so many ideas, practices, laws, and policies into a single, beautifully-written, energetic, erudite volume that will surely reshape how we and subsequent generations see the creation of the modern American state. - Ganesh Sitaraman, Yale Journal on Regulation

Splendid…Skillfully and persuasively, Novak ties the administrative state and the New Deal’s federal policies—and the legal framework that made them possible—to the decades that preceded the Great Depression…[Novak] aims not just to highlight aspects of the multidimensional and centuries-long existence and gradual expansion of the nation’s commitment to regulation in the public interest. Instead, he demonstrates the intellectual, legal, and political changes that permanently altered governance in the United States…For scholars and citizens battling against privilege on behalf of justice, New Democracy will prove an invaluable resource. - James T. Kloppenberg, Michigan Journal of Law and Society

This is one of the most ambitious and interesting books I have read in a long time. - Christopher Howard, Perspectives on Politics

Novak’s important and timely book debunks the myth that before Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, municipal, state, and federal governments were weak, and doctrines enshrining free market capitalism, individual, contract, and property rights went unchallenged. - Glenn C. Altschuler, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A rich, complicated book examining the origins of the modern American state…Novak’s argument is one that has, and will continue, to spark debate as it goes to the heart of one of oldest questions in American political life. - Phillip Payne, S-USIH: Society for U.S. Intellectual History

Illuminat[es] the enormous expansion of both state and federal governmental authority well before the New Deal, especially in the laws and agencies regulating public utilities and enacting Progressive social-welfare regulation and benefits. - Robert Gordon, Stanford Lawyer

This much anticipated book is a magisterial revision of the history of modern American governance. More powerfully than any work I have read, it shows concretely when and how the modern American state took shape and what made it fundamentally different from what came before. Perhaps even more important, Novak’s account centers democracy in a way other works have simply overlooked. Outstanding, truly field-changing, New Democracy is sure to spark vital conversations for decades to come. - Karen M. Tani, author of States of Dependency: Welfare, Rights, and American Governance, 1935–1972

Novak’s dazzling New Democracy offers a striking reconceptualization of a pivotal era in the history of American governance. As he demonstrates, brilliantly and convincingly, the New Deal was built upon the radical ideas and novel administrative practices that reshaped American politics and law in the decades preceding FDR’s election in 1932. - James T. Kloppenberg, author of Toward Democracy: The Struggle for Self-Rule in European and American Thought

In this sweeping and provocative book, Novak forces us to think anew about public power and democracy in America and how both were transformed in the period from 1866 to 1932. Encompassing everything from citizenship to social policy, the profound changes he chronicles notably preceded the New Deal. Novak challenges us as never before to reexamine what we thought we knew about ‘the creation of the modern American state.’ - David A. Moss, author of Democracy: A Case Study

A grand synthesis that retells the story of the rise of the modern American state by examining the fundamental grammar of state-building. Novak shows that Americans took ideas about citizenship, police power, public utility, social welfare, antimonopoly, and, most importantly, democracy and invested them with new power and meaning between the close of the Civil War and the beginning of the Great Depression. They laid the foundations for how Americans would continue to grapple with public problems, and how they would struggle over the meaning of democratic governance. A fitting capstone to a brilliant career. - Kenneth W. Mack, author of Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer

The Progressive period, the decisive turning point in the rise of modern American government, law, policy, and planning, has attracted some of the greatest historians of our time. Novak now joins their ranks with New Democracy, dazzling in its erudition and provocative argumentation. It will be impossible to think about Progressivism—and the American state today—without reading this book first. - Thomas J. Sugrue, author of The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit

Novak’s New Democracy is a remarkable achievement. Beautifully written and superbly researched, it illuminates the transformation of the American system of government between the Civil War and the New Deal, debunking the myths of both a weak American state and the New Deal as an aberration. An essential read for anyone who cares about the past and future of American democracy. - Kate Andrias, Columbia Law School

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