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Judith Stein’s Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Jul 20th, 2020

The period of the 1970s became one of the most problematic periods in the history of the USA because of the significant economic decline. In her book Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies, Judith Stein presents the chronological description and analysis of the events and policies in the economic and political spheres, which caused the decline of the robust economy developed during the post-war period.

In spite of the fact the book covers the shift from the era of postwar liberalism to the economic crisis of the 1970s, the author’s arguments can be discussed as relevant for analyzing the current situation in the economy of the USA. Stein focuses on the role of policymakers in the development of the crisis and provides the complex exploration of these policies in her book without references to the cultural aspects and with little attention to the social impact (Stein).

Thus, the historical actors of the book are policymakers, such presidents as Nixon, Ford, and Carter, labor leaders and social activists, legislators and businessmen who acted during the 1970s in the situation of the economic crisis associated with the issues of the trade deficit, inflation, decline of manufacturing industries, and low productivity.

Stein’s argument is based on the idea that the economic decline in the 1970s is caused by the ineffective policies of the government when the old approaches to regulating economy do not work and the new policies are not developed, as a result, the economy becomes dependent on credit market, inflation grows, and workers experience worse conditions of life (Stein). From this point, the role of presidential policymaking is crucial.

To support her point of view and provide the credible evidences, Stein presents a lot of statistical material to illustrate her discussion. The main sources, which are used by the author to develop her argument, are the presidential records, papers, and reports with the help of which the economic situation of the period can be explored.

Concentrating on the presidents’ successful and disadvantageous policies and decisions to overcome the economic crisis and decline in the industries, it is necessary to perform the proper examination of the archival government reports and documents.

Stein chose to focus on analyzing the policymakers’ decisions that is why the statements about the failures of the liberal and democratic politicians should be based on the thorough research. Moreover, the data of the economic statistics were used to present the evidence to support the vision of the 1970s as the period of the economic decline, which can be compared with the Great Depression. The author also used the records of the American Federation of Labor and articles from the American newspapers and magazines (Stein).

Stein’s view on the events and economic situation of the 1970s can be discussed as correlated with the traditional vision of the period. However, the author pays more attention to the effectiveness of policies adopted for regulating the economic situation.

Stein compares the politicians’ approaches to controlling the economic processes during the periods previous to the era of economic decline with the presidential decisions in the 1970s. The analysis depends on the role of the notion of Keynesianism and on the effects of the age of compression (Stein).

The author does not focus on the social situation and the positions of workers affected by the manufacturing industries’ decline. Their life conditions are described in general phrases, but the main accents are made on the effectiveness of the presidents’ decisions and policies. Stein discusses the fact of inflation, the impact of Nixon’s devaluation of the dollar, and trade deficit as a result of the failing policies.

The problems with taxes are associated with the figure of Carter, and the impossibility of presidents to cope with oil shocks and decline in industries is accentuated (Stein). From this point, Stein emphasizes the dependence of U.S. economy on the world processes and the inability of the governors to control the situation.

Stein’s Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies is a complex discussion of the 1970s period from the points of the economic and political development. It is important to concentrate on the facts presented in the book because the analysis of the economic crisis in the 1970s can provide the perspectives for the further examination of the current situation in the USA with references to the policies, which can be used to overcome the decline.

In spite of the fact Stein does not provide the provocative and controversial considerations and her visions are supported by the credible facts and economic data, the author’s approach to the discussion of the problem is interesting because Stein does not explores the position of the workers in the social context, but refer to the conditions of their life as a result of the problems in industries.

Furthermore, cultural aspects are also discussed as insignificant to provide the picture of the period. The accents are made only on the liberal and democratic political forces and their roles in regulating the declining economy based on tendencies in consumption and oil crisis.

Works Cited

Stein, Judith. Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies. USA: Yale University Press, 2011. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Judith Stein’s Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies." July 20, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/book-review-judith-steins-pivotal-decade-how-the-united-states-traded-factories-for-finance-in-the-seventies/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Judith Stein’s Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies'. 20 July.

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