Abstract: Business and Regional Economic Decline: The Political Economy of Deindustrialialization in Twentieth-Century New England

David Koistinen


The paper summarizes the content of the presenter's recently published book, Confronting Decline: The Political Economy of Deindustrialization in Twentieth-Century New England (2013). The volume examines the responses of business organizations and other groups to the dramatic downsizing in textiles and other industries that began in the New England region during the 1920s and continued for much of the twentieth century. Three responses to industrial decline in New England were pursued. Manufacturers in the declining sectors lobbied for cutbacks in social legislation and taxes, arguing that such steps were necessary to restore the competitiveness of regional industry. Labor unions and their liberal political allies pressed for large-scale federal government assistance to downsizing industries and areas. Service-sector companies that were tied to New England and had a vested interest in renewed prosperity endeavored to develop new regional industries to replace those in decline. The study describes the outcome of each of these initiatives and considers the implications of New England events for broader questions of economic development and political economy.

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