The Postwar Moment Progressive Forces in Britain, France, and the United States after World War II Isser Woloch

Publication date:
12 Mar 2019
Yale University Press
560 pages: 235 x 156 x 44mm
29 b-w illus.
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An incisive, comparative study of the development of Post–World War II progressive politics in Britain, France, and the United States
Toward the end of World War II, the three democracies faced a common choice: return to the civic order of prewar normalcy or embark instead on a path of progressive transformation. In this ambitious and original work, Isser Woloch assesses the progressive agendas that crystallized in each of the allied democracies: their roots in the interwar decades, their development during wartime, the struggles to enact them in the early postwar years, and the mixed outcomes in each country.

The Postwar Moment examines three progressive postwar manifestos that reveal a common agenda in the three nations. The issues at stake included priorities for reconstruction or reconversion; “full employment” via economic planning; price controls; the roles of trade unions; expansion of social security; national health care; public housing; and educational reform. A highly regarded scholar of European history, Woloch persuasively adds the United States to a discussion that is usually focused solely on Europe.

Isser Woloch is the Moore Collegiate Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University. He is the author of numerous books including The New Regime: Transformations of the French Civic Order, 1789–1820s; Jacobin Legacy: The Democratic Movement under the Directory; and Napoleon and His Collaborators: The Making of a Dictatorship.

"It [The Postwar Moment] offers a sensitive reappraisal of the tensions and contradictions that both invigorated and stymied the post-war moment, charting a new course for comparative and transnational study."—Ben Huf, University of Sydney, Labour History

"the book has unique value as the first to bring into conversation national trajectories of progressive histories in the West's largest traditional democracies."—Brian Shaev, Leiden University, Labour History Review

Selected for Choice's 2019 Outstanding Academic Titles List

“For decades when it was unpopular to do so for both leftists and liberals alike, Isser Woloch preserved a social democratic interpretation of the French Revolution and its implications for modern history. Today the heritage of that tradition in the middle of the twentieth century seems more relevant than ever, and we are fortunate in the extreme that Woloch’s newest magisterial book reconstructs a progressive moment after World War II in three countries with such finesse and novelty.”— Samuel Moyn, author of Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World

"Written with analytical verve, The Postwar Moment combines unflinching scrutiny with narrative power.  From the riveting opening through its rich national histories and bracing comparative conclusion, this absorbing work reshapes how we understand the fate of progressive and democratic ambitions."—Ira Katznelson, author of Fear Itself: The New Deal and the origins of Our Time

"In this brilliant synthesis, Isser Woloch fulfills the promise of comparative history by illuminating both the similarities and the differences in the way British, French, and American progressives responded to the challenges of the postwar era."—James J. Sheehan, author of Where Have All the Soldiers Gone? The Transformation of Modern Europe