The Industrialists: How the National Association of Manufacturers Shaped American Capitalism

The Industrialists: How the National Association of Manufacturers Shaped American Capitalism

History Hangout: Conversation with Jennifer A. Delton

 



In her book The Industrialists: How the National Association of Manufacturers Shaped American Capitalism, Jennifer A. Delton traces the history of the National Association of Manufacturers—NAM—from its origins in 1895 to today. She argues that NAM—an organization best known for fighting unions, promoting “free enterprise,” and defending corporate interests—was also surprisingly progressive. Delton shows how it encouraged companies to adopt innovations such as safety standards, workers’ comp, and affirmative action, and worked with the US government and international organizations to promote the free exchange of goods and services across national borders. While NAM’s modernizing and globalizing activities helped to make American industry the most profitable and productive in the world by midcentury, they also eventually led to deindustrialization, plant closings, and the decline of manufacturing jobs. The Industrialists is the story of a powerful organization that fought US manufacturing’s political battles, created its economic infrastructure, and expanded its global markets—only to contribute to the widespread collapse of US manufacturing by the close of the twentieth century. More information about the book is available here.

Jennifer A. Delton is professor of history at Skidmore College. Her previous books include Rethinking the 1950s: How Anticommunism and the Cold War Made America Liberal; Racial Integration in Corporate America, 1940–1990; and Making Minnesota Liberal: Civil Rights and the Transformation of the Democratic Party.