Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





David Nasaw

Committee Members

Robert David Johnson

Joshua B. Freeman

Judith Stein

Ira Katznelson

Subject Categories

American Politics | United States History


Moynihan, New Deal coalition, civil rights movement, deindustrialization, neoliberalism, postwar liberalism


“The Politician and the Professor” is a biographical study of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, which operates at two levels historiographically. Exploiting a large cache of new material, it provides the first, long-range, archive-based examination of a major, controversial political thinker. What emerges is a sometimes very flawed but nonetheless distinct and significant figure who up-ends much of the narrative about him, a new critical portrait of an influential character deserving of reconsideration. More broadly, this history uses an extraordinary and unusual life, which ranged widely in domestic and foreign policy over many decades, in both theory and practice, as a window onto the strains (ideological factions and institutional challenges) of “postwar liberalism.” Expanding on research that frames the end of New Deal reform to mid-1940s economic thought and policy, it frames the break-up of FDR’s electoral majority as the consequence of Keynesian responses to challenges in the 1960s and ‘70s. Moynihan, shaped by a difficult youth in the late Depression years of La Guardia’s New York and studies of international labor with the socialist unions in post-World War II London, stands out as a critic of the “new politics” Democrats of the 1950s and 60s, who, he felt, ignored the economic security of the party’s “ethnic” northern working-class base. As the Labor Department’s head of research and planning under JFK and LBJ, he saw the devastations of the post-industrial turn up-close, and insisted the problem for most blacks was an extreme version of the challenges facing blue-collar whites: a lack of jobs and income. Although his infamous “report” encouraged misinterpretation, he did not view poverty as a result of culture, but instead championed “employer of last resort” and child stipends, against the dominant goals of trickle-down growth and integration of housing and schools. Many experts now argue that such policies are necessary to counter the various drivers of racial, gender-, and class-based inequality. Moynihan’s early push for both marked him as far-sighted and unique. Research also suggests this road-not-taken might have altered the direction of U.S. political history dramatically. This dissertation further demonstrates that, to a significant extent, postwar liberalism invited the neoliberal age.

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