10A University of Warwick and University of Washington
10B University of Warwick and Baruch College, City University of New York
Since the last recession a debate concerning the nature of economic inequality has been reintroduced to economic literature. This academic debate has been triggered by the drastic changes in both wealth and income inequality. Obama is not the first president of the United States to address this issue and argue for a new social contract. Decades ago, Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society were attempts to ameliorate the economic disparity many Americans faced. In doing so, they combined American values such as opportunity, responsibility and meritocracy with progressive adaptations including social security and taxation on the rich.
The political debate and the reinstated academic interest in the topic regularly refer back to the Roaring Twenties’ inequality levels that the West and the US, in particular, have been arguably reached again. Since, in the words of Roosevelt, “new conditions impose new requirements upon government"", it is important to examine how society in general reflected on these pressing issues and called for change.
Hence, this research project aims to juxtapose today’s debate concerning inequality with the debate in the twenties. For this purpose, tabloid newspapers of the late twenties will be consulted, in order to contrast how working and middle class publications politicised the issue in the past compared to the present. In particular, it will examine in what ways different arguments were used to legitimise one or another vision of society. In conclusion, the project attempts to bridge the two eras in highlighting similarities and contrasting receptions of economic inequality.
(This research project has not been started as of now. A revised abstract will be provided by July.)
Phyllis Schlafly cried ‘Why should we lower ourselves to equal rights when we already have the status of special privilege? …We are the beneficiaries of a tradition of special respect for women.’ I examine how this minority view ended up hindering wider change across America.
I explore the foundations needed for successful legal propositions that hold similar goals in the future. My twenty-first century British prospective differs from existing historiography since it is predominately American and mainly aimed to persuade you of their biased opinion. Examining the wider picture with a more balanced view is vital as it allows us to see how such research can be helpful to society today.
Although solely exploring the United States, this example can be useful for other countries too. In many places the masses are calling for reform – whether it be introducing or expanding gay rights, or female equality - change is on the horizon. However, what we can learn from the ERA is that all possible avenues for change need to be explored – from lobbying, to state convention for example. Secondly, the role of organised groups is important since it helps galvanise grassroots support. Finally, and what this assessment seeks to argue, is that despite the mutual dependency of these factors, the most significant reason for failure is the timing of such propositions and lack of clarity on what the act would achieve. Overall it is clear that having majority support is not enough, desire for change needs to be widespread and there needs to be a sound knowledge of the implications of said proposition. As David Kyvig puts it, ‘consulting historians, they are likely to discover, is not merely prudent, it is indeed very wise’.