Alexander Field Claims 1930s Were “Technologically Progressive”


Source of book image:

(p. 1) UNDERNEATH the misery of the Great Depression, the United States economy was quietly making enormous strides during the 1930s. Television and nylon stockings were invented. Refrigerators and washing machines turned into mass-market products. Railroads became faster and roads smoother and wider. As the economic historian Alexander J. Field has said, the 1930s constituted “the most technologically progressive decade of the century.”
. . .
(p. 6) The closest thing to a unified explanation for these problems is a mirror image of what made the 1930s so important. Then, the United States was vastly increasing its productive capacity, as Mr. Field argued in his recent book, “A Great Leap Forward.” Partly because the Depression was eliminating inefficiencies but mostly because of the emergence of new technologies, the economy was adding muscle and shedding fat. Those changes, combined with the vast industrialization for World War II, made possible the postwar boom.
In recent years, on the other hand, the economy has not done an especially good job of building its productive capacity. Yes, innovations like the iPad and Twitter have altered daily life. And, yes, companies have figured out how to produce just as many goods and services with fewer workers. But the country has not developed any major new industries that employ large and growing numbers of workers.

For the full commentary, see:
DAVID LEONHARDT. “The Depression: If Only Things Were That Good.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., October 9, 2011): 1 & 6.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: online version of the commentary is dated October 8, 2011.)

Book discussed:
Field, Alexander J. A Great Leap Forward: 1930s Depression and U.S. Economic Growth, Yale Series in Economic and Financial History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011.

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