Sunbelt Capitalism

Why did industries, jobs, and people leave for the Southern and Western states now known for thier conservative politics?

This acclaimed book showed how politicians, CEOs, community groups, and industrial relations’ experts fashioned the idea of the “business climate” as a part of efforts to lure Northeastern and Midwestern manufacturers into what are now the US South’s, West’s, and country’s largest cities. That low-tax, poorly-regulated, anti-union ideal had profound economic, political, and social consequences decades before journalists noticed 1970s factory closures in the so-called Rustbelt. Capital flight undermined social welfare policies, eroded labor rights, exacerbated inequality, weakened voting rights, transformed the US party system, nurtured right-wing populism, and laid the groundwork for moving major US industries abroad.

Selected Reviews

"The history of Phoenix allows Shermer to explore, with real nuance, the relationship of business interests with the liberal state, the shifting politics of urban boosterism, and the synergies between antistatist businessmen and the military-industrial complex that made their fortunes. Shermer researches deeply like a hedgehog but ranges widely like a fox, and her arguments are strengthened by comparisons with places as diverse as Southern California, Nevada, Tennessee, and Georgia. Even Rustbelt historians have much to learn in these pages."—Thomas J. Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania

"Elizabeth Tandy Shermer's brilliant study of Phoenix shows how a group of young businessmen closed the liberal window of opportunity and then engineered dynamic growth free of the restraints of the New Deal state. Shermer traces the modern conservative revival in America back to the economic conservatism of Barry Goldwater and his fellow businessmen, not just to the racial and anticommunist groups that coalesced around his 1964 campaign or to the social and cultural tensions of the 1970s. This is the best study of the creation of the Sunbelt that we have."—Anthony J. Badger, author of FDR: The First Hundred Days

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