Jefferson Cowie’s new book The Great Exception: The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics (2016) follows his award-winning contributions Capital Moves: RCA’s Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor (2000) and Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class (2010).

The Great Exception’s argument should be broadly familiar to labor historians, since a trial balloon coauthored with Nick Salvatore appeared as “The Long Exception” in International Labor and Working-Class History 74 (2008), generating debate with a number of prominent scholars.

The new book extends the argument, holding that the New Deal was brought about only by the contingency of a colossal Great Depression and the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, sealed by war. Weighing such variables as race, immigration, individualism, and the state, Cowie argues that convergences unlikely to repeat themselves laid the foundation for a...

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