Martin J. Sklar, RIP

The man who coined "corporate liberalism"


The corporate reconstruction of American capitalism.
Cambridge University Press

When I wrote my obit for Gabriel Kolko earlier this week, I didn't realize that he wasn't the only old New Left historian of the Progressive Era to die this year. Last month Martin Sklar, whose analysis of the period overlaps with Kolko's but ends up taking a rather different direction, passed away. I've read very little of Sklar's scholarly work—his book on the Progressive Era, The Corporate Reconstruction of American Capitalism, has been on my to-read list forever—but fortunately some writers more well-read than I have stepped in. On the right, Ronald Radosh has a tribute to Sklar here; on the left, James Livingston writes about the man here. Livingston is a lot more sour, criticizing Sklar's anti-Obama ebook Letters on Obama (From the Left) and Sklar's positions on the War on Terror, but he still calls Sklar "one of the great historians of the 20 century."

One Sklar paper that I have read is "Woodrow Wilson and the Political Economy of Modern United States Liberalism," which isn't just an incisive essay itself but has the distinction of introducing the phrase "corporate liberalism" into the lexicon. Originally published in a 1960 issue of Studies on the Left, it was later reprinted in an anthology that Radosh (then still in his New Left phase) edited with Murray Rothbard. That book is posted here, and Sklar's paper serves as its first chapter. Read it in his memory.