Invisible Hands

The Businessmen's Crusade Against the New Deal

Kim Phillips-Fein (Author)


“A compelling and readable story of resistance to the new economic order.” —Boston Globe

In the wake of the profound economic crisis known as the Great Depression, a group of high-powered individuals joined forces to campaign against the New Deal—not just its practical policies but the foundations of its economic philosophy. The titans of the National Association of Manufacturers and the chemicals giant DuPont, together with little-known men like W. C. Mullendore, Leonard Read, and Jasper Crane, championed European thinkers Friedrich von Hayek and Ludwig von Mises and their fears of the “nanny state.” Through fervent activism, fundraising, and institution-building, these men sought to educate and organize their peers as a political force to preserve their profit margins and the “American way” of doing business. In the public relations department of General Electric, they would find the perfect spokesman: Ronald Reagan.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • January 2010
  • ISBN 978-0-393-33766-2
  • 5.6 × 8.3 in / 376 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“Here is the true story of the businessmen’s crusade: how organized money built a movement, found its voice, honed its strategies, and, after years of struggle, returned in triumph…Kim Phillips-Fein’s archival work is nothing short of phenomenal.” — Thomas Frank, author of Rendezvous with Oblivion

“Kim Phillips-Fein’s Invisible Hands persuasively shows how anti–New Deal business interests helped create a new political conservatism after 1945. It is essential reading on the history of contemporary American politics, and especially on the origins of Ronald Reagan’s ascendancy.” — Sean Wilentz, Princeton University, author of The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974–2008

“A fascinating account of how important wealthy donors were to the rise and success of conservatism…While many historians have focused on the role of ideas, activists, and politicians, this work takes us to the people who put their money where their mouths were.” — Huffington Post

“With ferocious archival spadework and a sharply honed critical intelligence, this study shifts the agenda of history-writing about American conservatism and marks a new stage in its maturity. A very important book.” — Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland

Invisible Hands is a brilliant, lucid, meticulously researched account of the politics of business conservatism. Kim Phillips-Fein’s work is pathbreaking. For anyone who wants to understand the triumph of the conservative order during the past quarter century, Invisible Hands is a must read.” — Steve Fraser, author of Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace

“[An] incisive study…Combining piquant profiles of corporate firebrands with a trenchant historical analysis that puts economic conflict at the heart of political change, Phillips-Fein makes an important contribution to our understanding of American conservatism.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The riveting story of how economic conservatism became one of the leading strands in American political thought…Engaging history from a talented new scholarly voice.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

All Subjects