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NYT interview: Rick Perlstein’s favorite historian? Nelson Lichtenstein!

Perlstein’s new book is on “The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan.”

The August 31, 2014 New York Times Book Review section’s interview with Rick Perlstein contained this exchange:

Who are the best historians writing today?

I look to historians for their power to illuminate not just the invisible lineaments of the present, but also that which is not present. What are the roads that were not taken that most shape our own time? Lately, the historian who’s been doing that best is Nelson Lichtenstein, who parlayed a career writing about midcentury capitalism and industrial unionism into extraordinarily penetrating accounts of why the economic regime we live under today is so deeply unsatisfying. One abandoned idea documented in his most recent book, “A Contest of Ideas: Capital, Politics, and Labor,” haunts me. Powerful people in the Democratic Party, like Senator Robert Wagner of New York, used to insist that the job of liberalism was to penetrate the “black box” of the corporation and turn the workplace into a more democratic institution. They believed that to leave decision-making in the great firms that dominate our lives merely to owners (as opposed to, say, the system of “co-determination” between labor and management under which the German economy now thrives) was no less than a violation of the Constitution’s 13th Amendment, which outlawed involuntary servitude. Now that such thinking is rare as a unicorn — and workers all but belong to their bosses during their working day — no wonder it’s hard to win the allegiance of the white working class to the Democrats.

Read the full interview at the link below.

hm 8/31/14