cover of book

Fraying Fabric: How Trade Policy and Industrial Decline Transformed America
by James C. Benton
University of Illinois Press, 2022
Cloth: 978-0-252-04465-6 | eISBN: 978-0-252-05366-5 | Paper: 978-0-252-08672-4
Library of Congress Classification HD9855.B35 2022
Dewey Decimal Classification 338.4767700973

The decline of the U.S. textile and apparel industries between the 1940s and 1970s helped lay the groundwork for the twenty-first century's potent economic populism in America. James C. Benton looks at how shortsighted trade and economic policy by labor, business, and government undermined an employment sector that once employed millions and supported countless communities. Starting in the 1930s, Benton examines how the New Deal combined promoting trade with weakening worker rights. He then moves to the ineffective attempts to aid textile and apparel workers even as imports surged, the 1974 pivot by policymakers and big business to institute lowered trade barriers, and the deindustrialization and economic devastation that followed. Throughout, Benton provides the often-overlooked views of workers, executives, and federal officials who instituted the United States’ policy framework in the 1930s and guided it through the ensuing decades. Compelling and comprehensive, Fraying Fabric explains what happened to textile and apparel manufacturing and how it played a role in today's politics of anger.
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