Review Essay

New Deal, Old South

How FDR Propped Up Jim Crow

In This Review

Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time
Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time
By Ira Katznelson
Liveright, 2013, 720 pp. $29.95 Purchase

In March 1933, with the United States deep in the throes of the Great Depression, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his first inaugural address, warning of the power of fear -- or, more specifically, the danger of “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Those efforts were the “new deal” that Roosevelt had promised during his campaign, a sweeping reformation of the U.S. economy that would define his first two terms in office and create the foundations for the contemporary American social welfare state: federal aid to the unemployed, stiffer regulation of industry, legal protections for workers, and the Social Security program, among other major innovations.

Today, Americans tend to understand the New Deal in a few standard ways. The consensus view is triumphalist: the New Deal was the first step in the United States’ muscular emergence from the Great Depression and the

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