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Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  94 ratings  ·  20 reviews
In this fascinating new history, Judith Stein argues that in order to understand our current economic crisis we need to look back to the 1970s and the end of the age of the factory—the era of postwar liberalism, created by the New Deal, whose practices, high wages, and regulated capital produced both robust economic growth and greater income equality. When high oil prices ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published May 25th 2010 by Yale University Press (first published March 13th 2010)
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3.80  · 
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 ·  94 ratings  ·  20 reviews

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Oct 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent if at times slanted history of US political economy in the '70s (with a coda that brings the story through the Reagan years and up to the 2008 Great Recession). Stein documents the decline of US manufacturing and the rise of finance. Her argument is that this process was far from inevitable - it wasn't simply the result of globalization or technological change. Essentially successive administrations refused to shift from the policies of the early cold war, when access to the US market ...more

The author's goal in writing Pivotal Decade is to determine why economic policy in the United States took such a turn towards less government intervention. Pivotal Decade describes the American policies associated with increasing international trade, a larger financial sector, and an alleged decline in manufactering in the United States. The author focuses on the debates over federal policy in the 1970s. Throughout the period after the Second World War, the United States had subordinated ec

Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent overview of the 1970s - political and economic history. Stein blames the transformation of the US economy from industrial production driven by Keynesian demand to financialization and monetarism on, essentially the mediocrity at the top during the 1970s and 1980s. Nixon, Ford, and Carter all prejudiced geo-politics over economics, in large part because the Keynesian consensus was so accepted (we're all Keynesians now), that it seemed like a secondary concern to things like, going to Ch ...more
Donald Whale
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Undoubtedly one of the greatest history books of the American economy ever written. Some of the criticisms you see in the other reviews here are legitimate, in the sense that the book is detail-heavy, and at various points trades narrative style for analytical precision. You need to do that though, at least for certain types of historical interventions, and we desperately needed the type of intervention for the 1970s. It reconstructs the kinds of economic worldviews people operated from as these ...more
Graham Latham
Oct 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I guess this is sort of a pre-history of what we now call the neoliberal era? Stein is trying to re-frame that history a bit, redistributing some of the blame for the disaster usually laid on Reagan and like "resurgent right wing ideology" or whatever in the 60s and 70s, and lay a bunch of it at the feet of Jimmy Carter, for being just utterly inept at addressing the mounting economic problems created by a half-century of trade deficits and increasing concentration of capital investment abroad. ...more
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well-researched and interesting explanation of America's monetary policy since WW II with special focus on the 1970s. I had never before thought about the challenge and ramifications of continuing with world-wide nation building after helping Germany and Japan recover. I wished I had my Econ textbook nearby - it is a little dry. And it will definitely make you extremely irritated with Jimmy Carter and his inaction and/or indecision. I wished she'd also talked more about voodoo economics, gold st ...more
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Exceptionally dry, but an excellent book to read if you want to understand why US politics are where they are. Stein lays out the neoliberal turn with exacting detail, and this book is a good calmative if you're driven nuts by people praising Jimmy Carter.
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
I got a C- in macroeconomics in college (too unique and gifted to bother with numbers), and it really showed when i read this book.
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a little hard to follow at points, but I know much more about the 1970s than I should.
Josh Teitelbaum
Jan 01, 2011 rated it liked it
The Pivotal Decade is an important piece of the puzzle set out in the introduction: for the last thirty years median wages have stagnated, but why did it start thirty years ago? The book focuses heavily on the impact of a decades-long trade policy that prioritized developing foreign nations, namely Europe and Japan, as a defense against communism over protecting American workers. Stein largely avoids judging the merits of that choice and focuses instead on its impact on the American worker, or r ...more
Apr 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This book is an unbelievably confusing study of US industrial policy in the late 20th century. Starting in the 1950's, the US put their geopolitical goals of ahead of domestic industrial needs. In order to prop up the fledgling manufacturing sector in post-war Europe and Japan, and therefore limit Soviet influence, the US essentially eliminated tariffs and ignored GATT violations such as dumping on the US market. This contributed to the decline of the US manufacturing sector while Asia experienc ...more
Interesting overview of American macroeconomic policy and presidential administrations centered around Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan. Pivotal Decade portrays recent economic policy as leaving labor and manufacturing in the dust while embracing globalization and financial enterprises. One standout section was Stein's treatment of Paul Volcker. Her study challenges his wisdom and asserts that his monetary policy was one of folly rather than a Keynesian approach to snuffing out inflation. The Cli ...more
Tedious reading. I was hoping to get a better understanding of what precipitated the current financial catastrophe and I do. I think.
A year-by-year economic and political analysis that I basically says and proves that the financial abyss the global economy was looking at was put in place by the US during the 70s and brought to full fruition by Ronald Wilson Reagen. Why he laid-in-state when he died is beyond me. Manufacturing and the middle class were eliminated by policies of the federal gover
Oct 10, 2011 rated it did not like it
This book would be, at best, a mediocre polemic in The Nation. Stein's basic premise is that the U.S. is exactly as strong as its basic industries -- so we should be focused on producing steel, coal, automobiles, and even shoes and apparel. Therefore, she says, we need industrial policy to support these industries. To argue this, she marshals all the evidence for one side and ignores any downside -- a cheap dollar boosts exports, she will note, but you'd never hear that a strong dollar means che ...more
Jeremy Conley
Mar 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics-econ
The premise, how the US switched from manufacturing to finance during the 70's while no one was looking, is really interesting. Unfortunately, Stein's actual telling of that story is mindmeltingly boring. She seems to have thought a blow by blow account of US macroeconomic decisions and outcomes was the best way to get her thesis across, which it was not. This book did nothing to counter my feeling that most published history is just analysis without a filter, which is to say, not very compellin ...more
Pallav Sharda
Oct 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
I've been curious about this decade , so bought the only audiobook I could find. It has turned out to be okay - a bit stretched but had a lot of great facts and situational anecdotes. Around half way... it got boring. I couldn't get myself to finish it. Too many facts and dates.. was very hard to enjoy.
Joseph N
Apr 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Really engaging look at some big political and cultural currents in 1970s America. Well written, interesting and I learned a lot.
Dec 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Interesting mix of history, economics, and politics.
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quoting one of my favourite characters Frank Sobotka - "You know what the trouble is, Brucey? We used to make shit in this country, build shit. Now we just put our hand in the next guy's pocket."
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Great treatment of a fascinating topic.
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