Daniel Amsterdam’s Roaring Metropolis: Businessmen’s Campaign for a Civic Welfare State challenges the conventional narrative of early twentieth-century American businessmen as promoting laissezfaire or antistatist politics. Instead, as Amsterdam argues, elite business leaders campaigned vigorously for greater municipal spending on civic welfare projects, which included building and improving public schools, public health infrastructure, parks and playgrounds, libraries, and museums. Rather than focus on national-level business in- government, his narrative traverses multiple cities (Detroit, Philadelphia, and Atlanta) to demonstrate both the diversity of political challenges and institutional constraints that civic-minded reformers faced as well as the striking convergence of civic welfare policies in the 1920s. At times, business leaders worked with an array of politically active groups—such as local unions, middle-class women’s organizations, immigrant groups, African American activists, and even the KKK—to achieve their goals. By weaving together this variegated tapestry of people and places, Amsterdam explains how the business elite in each of these cities pursued a similar “network of programs” to “foster social and political stability as well as economic growth” (1). The civic welfare state thus emerged from business elites blending urban reform and boosterism in pursuit of development, while simultaneously solidifying their own positions of political power, embracing “inegalitarian politics” (178), and reshaping their urban environment in their own interests.
Laura Phillips Sawyer,
Daniel Amsterdam's Roaring Metropolis: Businessmen's Campaign for a Civic Welfare State
, 20 Enter. & Soc'y 1087
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/fac_artchop/1361