The Long Crisis: New York City and the Path to Neoliberalism (Oxford University Press, 2021) traces how the turn to the market in the late twentieth century was shepherded by an unlikely force: local people struggling to preserve public services. The ascent of market-based policies was driven less by explicitly pro-market ideologies than by New Yorkers experimenting with novel ways to maintain a robust civic life in the face of the city’s well-known budget woes. The project begins in late 1960s New York City, where more than a decade of political and economic crises disrupted long-standing assumptions about the public sector. As diverse groups of city dwellers came to believe that local government could no longer be counted on as before, they launched creative projects that looked to private actors, the private sector, and the market to address problems ranging from affordable housing to decaying parks to rising crime. Conceived by block associations, grassroots activists, non-profit foundations, and cultural institutions, these efforts gained support from local Democrats and liberal officials and gradually became articles of urban-liberal governance.
I am currently working on my second book, “Smash the Klan”: Fighting the White Power Movement in the Late Twentieth Century, which examines the activist network that took root in cities such as Atlanta, Durham, and Louisville to combat the national resurgence of white supremacist organizing in the late 1970s and 1980s. This multiracial coalition – comprised largely of black freedom struggle veterans alongside young activists – formed groups like the National Anti-Klan Network in 1979 (which became the Center for Democratic Renewal in 1986). I trace how this movement used a litany of tactics – protests, lawsuits, and media campaigns – to curtail the growth of white power organizations and to bring attention to the subtler forms of white supremacy that pervaded American society.
"Adopt a Building" flier, circa mid-1970s
Benjamin Holtzman Ben Holtzman History Brown