The New Deal was one of the great public experiments in American history. Crafted pragmatically by the Roosevelt administration to fight the Great Depression of the 1930s, it helped the country recover from economic disaster and put millions of desperate people back to work. In the long run, it ratcheted up the role of the federal government in business affairs and injected a unprecedented measure of shared responsibility for the welfare of all people. It also marked a dramatic shift in class power over the workings of U.S. democracy.
The recent crash of the global economy — now referred to as the Great Recession — has revived interest in the efficacy of Franklin Roosevelt’s panoply of experiments in reform and recovery, and renewed debate over what the New Deal actually accomplished. Yet the New Deal’s legacy has been largely forgotten or expunged except for a few highlights recycled in national memory.