© 2020

Corporate Conservatives Go to War

How the National Association of Manufacturers Planned to Restore American Free Enterprise, 1939–1948

  • Examines the meticulous planning during World War II of US business conservatives to advance the interests of private capitalism in the post-war era

  • Locates the influence of corporate conservatives in articulating the wartime fatigue of Americans with New Deal liberalism and in restoring the image of private capitalism by war’s end

  • Explains why it was the ‘moderate’ business groups, and not the conservatives, that finally ‘won out’ in the contest over deciding the post-war character of US political economy


Part of the Palgrave Studies in American Economic History book series (AEH)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvii
  2. Charlie Whitham
    Pages 1-21
  3. Charlie Whitham
    Pages 23-40
  4. Charlie Whitham
    Pages 41-59
  5. Charlie Whitham
    Pages 111-164
  6. Charlie Whitham
    Pages 165-216
  7. Charlie Whitham
    Pages 217-270
  8. Charlie Whitham
    Pages 271-299
  9. Charlie Whitham
    Pages 301-320
  10. Back Matter
    Pages 321-400

About this book


World War II presented a unique opportunity for American business to improve its reputation after years of censure for inflicting the Great Depression upon the nation. No employers’ organization worked harder or devoted greater resources to reviving business prestige during the war than the National Association of Manufacturers, which spent millions of dollars on promoting the indispensability of private enterprise to the successful mobilization of the American economy in an uncompromising multi-media campaign which spanned the factory floor to the movie theatre. Now, using unpublished primary sources, the full extent of the NAM’s wartime mission to raise the stature of American business in the post-war era is revealed. During the war the NAM erected a vast structure of research on an unprecedented scale numbering more than one hundred persons dedicated to planning the best solutions for restoring American ‘free enterprise’ capitalism after the war in a direct challenge to the ‘liberal’ prescriptions of the reigning administration. These studies were painstakingly assembled and widely distributed and served as a complimentary arm to the better-known pro-business propaganda message of the organization. What emerges is a unique and telling glimpse into the minds of the corporate class of wartime America that reveals the determination of a major employers’ organization to exploit the exceptional circumstances of total war to influence both the power-brokers in Washington who wrote economic policy and the American public as a whole to embrace a post-war future ruled by private enterprise capitalism..


American economic history Economics of World War Two Business history Post-war economics National Association of Manufacturers NAM US Chamber of Commerce USCC Great Depression Business conservatives US economic policy in the twentieth century Corporate liberal theory New Deal liberalism Defense mobilization Defense economy Wartime America Conference of Business Economists Corporate conservatives Free enterprise

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Edge Hill UniversityOrmskirkUK

About the authors

Charlie Whitham is Senior Lecturer in American History at Edge Hill University, UK. His research focuses on the political, economic and social processes that transformed the USA into a global superpower during the pivotal years of World War II. He has authored Post-War Business Planners in the United States, 1939-1948: The Rise of the Corporate Moderates (2016).

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Corporate Conservatives Go to War
  • Book Subtitle How the National Association of Manufacturers Planned to Restore American Free Enterprise, 1939–1948
  • Authors Charlie Whitham
  • Series Title Palgrave Studies in American Economic History
  • Series Abbreviated Title Palgrave Studies in American Economic History
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2020
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Economics and Finance Economics and Finance (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-030-43907-1
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-43910-1
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-030-43908-8
  • Series ISSN 2662-3900
  • Series E-ISSN 2662-3919
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XVII, 400
  • Number of Illustrations 5 b/w illustrations, 3 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Economic History
    Industrial Organization
    Economic Policy
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
Industry Sectors
Finance, Business & Banking


“For over one hundred years, the National Association of Manufacturers has been one of the strongest voices supporting small government, low taxes, and private sector resource allocation. Charlie Whitham's narrative, backed by skilled archival work, demonstrates the strain placed on the small government argument by the Great Depression and World War II.  Devotion to an ideal and a swift return to that ideal after major cataclysms that call its very promise into question does not simply "just happen". Whitham's work reveals how an effective program emerged from the NAM, even in what was one of the most challenging settings for free market proponents. Enlightening for students and scholars of all political persuasions, economic leanings, and social movements.” (Barbara Alexander, Professor of Economics, Babson College, USA)