Abstract: A Faded Passion? Estes Kefauver and the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly, 1957–1963

Daniel Scroop


This paper examines the senate subcommittee on antitrust and monopoly (1957-1963), chaired by Tennessee senator Estes Kefauver. It assesses the extent to which the antimonopoly critique of bigness that had animated the politics of reform in the pre–New Deal era persisted into the postwar era, arguing that Richard Hofstadter was essentially correct in describing antitrust as one of the "faded passions" of postwar reform. But that does not mean that Kefauver's antimonopoly crusade was unimportant. It was significant, I suggest, in forming a bridge between an antimonopoly tradition rooted in the politics of the pre–New Deal era and the new antimonopoly politics of the 1970s and beyond, particularly as manifested in the "third wave" consumer movement. Tracing this connection between antimonopoly and consumer politics, the paper pays particular attention to the formulation and passage of the Kefauver-Harris Drug Act, the piece of consumer safety legislation that emerged from subcommittee, and to Kefauver's determined but forlorn efforts in the late 1950s and early 1960s to persuade the federal government to establish a new Department of Consumers.

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