Steven Attewell, a policy historian whose primary interests are U.S. social and economic policy of the 20th century, teaches Urban Studies majors at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.
In his book, People Must Live by Work, Professor Attewell presents the history of an idea—direct job creation—that transformed the role of government in ameliorating unemployment by hiring the unemployed en masse to prevent widespread destitution in economic crises. For ten years, between 1933 and 1943, direct job creation was put into practice, employing more than eight million Americans and making the federal government the largest single employer in the country. Yet in 2008, when the most dramatic economic crisis since the Depression occurred, the idea of direct job creation was nowhere to be found on the list of policies deemed feasible or advisable for government at any level.
People Must Live by Work traces the rise and fall of direct job creation policy—how it was put into practice, how it came within a hairbreadth of becoming a permanent feature of American economic and social administration, and why it has been largely forgotten or discounted today. Contrary to more conventional arguments, Attewell reveals that the New Deal ended the Great Depression before the United States entered World War II and its jobs programs continued to influence policy debates over the Employment Act of 1946. He examines the deliberations surrounding the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act that was signed into law in 1978 and demonstrates the ways in which direct job creation played a significant and polarizing role in dividing the economic establishment and the Democratic party in the 1970s. People Must Live by Work not only chronicles the ambition, constraints, and achievements of direct job creation policy in the past but also proposes a framework for understanding its enduring significance and promise for today.
The CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies is honored to announce that Professor Steven Attewell has recently published, .