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Shaped by the State

Toward a New Political History of the Twentieth Century

Shaped by the State

Toward a New Political History of the Twentieth Century

American political history has been built around narratives of crisis, in which what “counts” are the moments when seemingly stable political orders collapse and new ones rise from the ashes. But while crisis-centered frameworks can make sense of certain dimensions of political culture, partisan change, and governance, they also often steal attention from the production of categories like race, gender, and citizenship status that transcend the usual break points in American history.

Brent Cebul, Lily Geismer, and Mason B. Williams have brought together first-rate scholars from a wide range of subfields who are making structures of state power—not moments of crisis or partisan realignment—integral to their analyses. All of the contributors see political history as defined less by elite subjects than by tensions between state and economy, state and society, and state and subject—tensions that reveal continuities as much as disjunctures. This broader definition incorporates investigations of the crosscurrents of power, race, and identity; the recent turns toward the history of capitalism and transnational history; and an evolving understanding of American political development that cuts across eras of seeming liberal, conservative, or neoliberal ascendance. The result is a rich revelation of what political history is today.

Read the introduction.

384 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2019

History: American History, History of Ideas

Political Science: Political and Social Theory


“This is an original and unique anthology whose contributions offer theoretically sophisticated reassessments of the subfield of political history. Both capacious and generative, I know of no other work that comes close in offering so many fresh interpretations of twentieth-century US history and revisions of twentieth-century US historiography. The essays are well written and engaging, new and enlightening.”

Peter James Hudson, University of California, Los Angeles

Shaped by the State brings together a valuable collection of reports from the borderlands where social, cultural, and political history intersect—and reinvigorate—each other.”

Daniel Rodgers, Princeton University

“Essential reading for all political historians and historians of the twentieth-century United States.”

Journal of American History

“Cebul, Geismer, and Williams call for an analysis of the American state that decenters political parties or ideologies and instead focuses on the norms, assumptions, and values that fuel American governance. . . . What they suggest is nothing short of a revolution in the history of U.S. political history, destined to encourage many among us to consider a wholesale upheaval of our 20th-century US survey courses.”

Journal of Urban History

Table of Contents



Beyond Red and Blue: Crisis and Continuity in Twentieth-Century U.S. Political History / Brent Cebul, Lily Geismer, and Mason B. Williams

Part I.    Building Leviathan

Chapter 1.           Social Insecurities: Private Data and Public Culture in Modern America / Sarah E. Igo
Chapter 2.           The Strange Career of American Liberalism / N. D. B. Connolly
Chapter 3.           “Really and Truly a Partnership”: The New Deal’s Associational State and the Making of Postwar American Politics / Brent Cebul and Mason B. Williams
Chapter 4.           State Building for a Free Market: The Great Depression and the Rise of Monetary Orthodoxy / David M. P. Freund
Chapter 5.           La revolución institucional: The Rise and Fall of the Mexican New Deal in the U.S. South, 1920–1990 / Julie M. Weise

Part II.   Crisis and Continuity

Chapter 6.           The Short End of Both Sticks: Property Assessments and Black Taxpayer Disadvantage in Urban America / Andrew W. Kahrl
Chapter 7.           Clearing the Air and Counting Costs: Shimp v. New Jersey Bell and the Tragedy of Workplace Smoking / Sarah E. Milov
Chapter 8.           Glocal America: The Politics of Scale in the 1970s / Suleiman Osman
Chapter 9.           The Government Alone Cannot Do the Total Job: The Possibilities and Perils of Religious Organizations in Public-Private Refugee Care / Melissa May Borja
Chapter 10.         A Carceral Empire: Placing the Political History of U.S. Prisons and Policing in the World / Stuart Schrader
Chapter 11.         Fears of a Nanny State: Centering Gender and Family in the Political History of Regulation / Rachel Louise Moran


The History of Neoliberalism / Kim Phillips-Fein
Ten Propositions for the New Political History / Matthew D. Lassiter


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