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A People's History of the United States

by Howard Zinn
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How does chapter 15, "Self Help in Hard Times," of A People's History of the United States explain the affects of WWI and the Great Depression?

Chapter 15 of A People's History of the United States explains how the government's lack of adequate economic response following the war, and their staunch commitment to capitalist policies, led to the Great Depression. The author even argues that Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal could have done more to achieve economic justice.

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In chapter fifteen of A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn essentially interprets the Great Depression, and the government's initially feeble response to it, as the outgrowth of policies that began in the immediate aftermath of World War I. He points to the government's strong anti-union stance amid the strikes of 1919, and the pro-businessor in Zinn's interpretation, anti-working classpolicies of the so-called "Roaring Twenties."

When the Depression hit, the crisis led to the election of Franklin Roosevelt, whose New Deal policies represented unprecedented reforms. Still, Zinn argues that the New Deal stopped far short of the kind of structural change that were necessary to achieve economic justice. Indeed, the point of the New Deal was to preserve, not to upend capitalism. The Wagner Act, which guaranteed the right of unions to exist, was a prime exampleits main purpose was to stabilize the economy by avoiding strikes. Zinn also stresses the fact that the New Deal reforms discriminated against African-Americans. The effects of World War I's aftermath and the Great Depression were to rock American society to its foundations, but Zinn writes that even though Roosevelt's reforms were unparalleled in American history, the "same system that had brought depression and crisis...remained." For this reason, the radical critics of this system remained throughout the tumultuous decade.

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