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Claire Goldstene. The Struggle for America’s Promise: Equal Opportunity at the Dawn of Corporate Capital . Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2014. Pp. xi+248. $30.00 (paper).

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8 years abandons the Original Meaningof an important constitutional
clause, does make one wonder what may be missing from this account of
Original Meaning.That said, the book is nonetheless essential reading for
anyone interested in the Fourteenth Amendment in particular, or in the Orig-
inal Meaningof the Constitution.
Leslie F. Goldstein, University of Delaware
Claire Goldstene. The Struggle for Americas Promise: Equal Opportu-
nity at the Dawn of Corporate Capital. Jackson: University Press of Mis-
sissippi, 2014. Pp. xi+248. $30.00 (paper).
Claire Goldstene provides a fascinating, well-researched investigation into a
timely topic. While equality of opportunity is a political concept featured at
the center of contemporary debates over inequality, surprisingly little schol-
arly attention has been paid to the ways in which US political actors have used
the concept in their attempts to address economic inequality. While J. R. Pole
(The Pursuit of Equality in American History, 2nd ed. [Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1993]) and Celeste Michelle Condit and John Louis Lucaites
(Crafting Equality: Americas Anglo-African Word [Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1993]) have produced studies of the history of equality (though
not specically equality of opportunity), no one has analyzed the use of the
concept of equality of opportunity specically. Goldstenes work, thereby, lls
an important gap in the literature. Rather than seeing equality of opportu-
nity as a progressive concept that aided actors in pursuing egalitarian aims,
Goldstene views equal opportunity to be a contradictory and ultimately counter-
productive concept. In effect, Goldstenes historical case studies empirically sup-
port a philosophical claim made by John Schaar (Equality of Opportunity and
Beyond,in Equality, Nomos IX, ed. J. Roland Pennock and John W. Chap-
man [New York: Atherton, 1967]), namely, that equal opportunity is not an
egalitarian concept at all, but rather a concept to justify inequality and support
the status quo. Equality of opportunity, according to Goldstene, contains a con-
tradiction between its progressive capacity to incorporate more people into its
rubric and to reward merit over inherited wealth on the one hand, and its in-
clination to uphold economic inequities on the other(101).
Goldstene argues that this contradiction between egalitarian aims and justi-
cation of unequal results became increasingly apparent during the Gilded
Age. Before this time, equal opportunitys contradiction served a purpose as it
helped to contain class tensionsby promising that merit would be rewarded
Book Reviews 169
and respected and would promote economic independence(1415, 33). Yet,
the ideologyspromiseran into the reality of both Gilded Age inequality
and an economy that nally crushed the prospect of economic independence
as increasing proportions of workers depended on wages for subsistence.
The book charts how different individuals and groups attempted to grap-
ple with these contradictions. Chapter 1 details the changes in the Norths
economy that made the promise of economic independence increasingly anach-
ronistic. Retracing the common comparison of Booker T. Washington with
Dubois, chapter 2 makes the argument that Washington attempted (unsuc-
cessfully) to overcome the contradictions of the ideology of equality of op-
portunity by linking economic independence with landownership as a way
to circumnavigate racism by severing the nancial dependence of blacks on
whites(21). Chapters 4 and 7 on Emma Goldman and Edward Bellamy,
respectively, provide intellectual histories of these gures through the frame
of equal opportunity, with Goldstene ultimately siding with Bellamy for his
courage to reject the ideology of equal opportunity and embrace equality of
result and thereby transcend the tensions inherent to the ideology of equal
opportunity that constrained most reform efforts and to imagine a future with-
out monetary competition(159).
Chapters 3, 5, and 6 effectively chronicle how different labor groups and
business groups adjusted their uses of the ideology of equality of opportunity
in their struggles among each other. Chapter 3 provides a fascinating account
of how the Knights of Labor, led by Terence Powderly, used cooperatives to
reinvigorate the promises of equal opportunity by celebrating the dignity of
labor,yet Goldstene argues that the contradictions of equality of opportu-
nity doomed the effort to failure because cooperatives left untouched the eco-
nomic hierarchies created by the Gilded Age economy (65). Chapter 5 shows
how Samuel Gomperss more politically successful appropriation of the ide-
ology of equality of opportunity traded demands for economic independence
for greater leisure and consumption realized through shorter hours and higher
wages(100). Goldstene laments that through this strategy, Gompers had to
abandon his rhetoric of class struggle and decouple the association of consol-
idated capital with declining economic opportunity(122). Chapter 6 follows
two of the biggest business organizationsthe National Civic Federation (NCF)
and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)and details the re-
markable conceptual changes in their arguments over a relatively short period
of time. NCF helped accommodate the ideology of equal opportunity to the
new conditions of capital consolidation as they shift[ed] the meaning of op-
portunity from entrepreneurism to advancement within industry through in-
ternal promotion or expanded stock ownership, or through higher wages and
shorter hours(124).
170 American Political Thought Winter 2016
The few minor weaknesses of the book stem from its methodological ap-
proach. First, it would be helpful to explore whether the actors are using
qualitatively different conceptions of equality of opportunity. Emma Gold-
mansequal opportunity for the fulllment of the self(87), Gomperss equal
opportunity of consumption-as-leisure(112), and the Civic Federations equal
opportunity for advancement within industry(124) seem qualitatively dif-
ferent, requiring differing levels of substantive equality (in addition to proce-
dural equality). Furthermore, since Goldstene asserts that there is a common
coreof the ideology (see 101, 115), it is left unexplained why Bellamy is able
to frequently use the term equal opportunityin his writing while still being
able to transcendits contradictions, while all the other actors are not.
Second, in a few places the book reies the doctrine of equality of oppor-
tunity and speaks as if the ideology is an agent of history that the actors can-
not escape. As Quentin Skinner has warned, the danger of this is that the fact
that ideas presuppose agentscan be discounted as the ideas get up and do
battle on their own behalf(Meaning and Understanding in the History of
Ideas,History and Theory 8 [1969]: 11). Goldstene discusses how Powderly,
Goldman, Gompers, and the Civic Federation all became ensnared in the con-
tradiction inherentin the ideology of equal opportunity (67, 74, 110, 130). For
instance, Booker T. Washingtonsembrace of the ideology of equal opportu-
nity led him to develop programs that would ultimately exacerbate class di-
visions within the black community(43). The potential problem with this
language is that it conceals power inequalities. It seems more likely that it was
the constraints forged by racist structures of institutions, beliefs, and practices
rather than the choice to use the ideology of equal opportunity that led
Booker T. Washington to adopt his political strategy.
This may explain the surprising absence of race in the story, especially since
previous research has argued that it was African Americans who helped pop-
ularize the use of equality of opportunity (see Condit and Lucaites, Craft-
ing Equality, 151). The lack of racial analysis sometimes obscures power
differentials. In chapter 5, for instance, Goldstene notes that Gomperss view
of political and economic power echoedWashingtons approach (117). The
point Goldstene is making is that both Washington and Gompers privileged
improved economic circumstances and discounted the importance of political
power. Yet, the comparison risks equating the very different contextual sit-
uations each of the actors was working under. It is perhaps telling that the only
gure in the book able to transcendthe contradictions of the ideology of
equal opportunity is Edward Bellamy, whose most inuential arguments occur
in a utopian ction novel.
Despite these relatively minor defects, this book more than serves its pri-
mary goal of showing in rich detail how actors, especially labor and business,
Book Reviews 171
used equal opportunity in ways that never truly confronted the new realities of
consolidated capitalism and an industrialized economy based on wage labor.
It should also give pause to contemporary actors who continue to use the
concept to promote all kinds of egalitarian causes. The book should be of
great interest to scholars in the elds of American political thought, American
studies, labor history, intellectual history, US history, and conceptual history.
Michael Joseph Illuzzi, Lesley University
Michael J. Lee. Creating Conservatism: Postwar Words That Made an
American Movement. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2014.
Pp. x+316. $34.95 (paper).
Modern American conservatism was forged during the late 1940s, 1950s,
and early 1960s. What emerged from the anvil departed from earlier philos-
ophies of the political Right. Indeed, before this period Americans infre-
quently used the word conservatismto describe a political philosophy. This
formative period is of great interest to scholars and intelligent lay people
alike. Michael J. Lee, an assistant professor of communications studies at the
College of Charleston, has written a book that makes a useful contribution to
understanding the creation of conservatism as we understand it today.
Lee starts with the well-accepted premise that books were at the center of
the creation project, and that some of them are canonical works that deeply
inuencedand, indeed, continue to inuencethe conservative movement.
Based on recommended-reading and best-book lists by conservative organi-
zations and opinion journals, as well as testimonials by leading conservative
politicians and commentators about books that inuenced them, Lee identies
10 books that he considers rst-order canonical works. For my own book about
the rise of American conservatism, I less systematically selected six books as
composing the conservative canon, all of which are also on Lees list. Those six,
in chronological order, are F. A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1944); William F. Buckley Jr., God and Man at
Yale (Washington, DC: Regnery, 1951); Whittaker Chambers, Witness (Wash-
ington, DC: Regnery, 1952); Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind (Wash-
ington, DC: Regnery, 1953); Barry Goldwater, The Conscience of a Con-
servative (Shepardsville, KY: Victor, 1960); and Milton Friedman, Capitalism
and Freedom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962). All of these were
blockbusters when they were published, and all of them are still read today. To
that list, Lee adds works by Richard Weaver, Frank Meyer, Robert Nisbet, and
172 American Political Thought Winter 2016
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