Fones–Wolf, Elizabeth 1954- (Elizabeth A. Fones-Wolf)
Fones–Wolf, Elizabeth 1954- (Elizabeth A. Fones-Wolf)
Born 1954. Education: University of Massachusetts—Amherst, Ph.D., 1990.
Office—Department of History, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, 220 Woodburn Hall, P.O. Box 6303, Morgantown, WV 26506-6303. E-mail—[email protected]
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, Morgantown, WV, professor of history.
First Book award, Phi Alpha Theta, 1995, for Selling Free Enterprise: The Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism, 1945-60.
Selling Free Enterprise: The Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism, 1945-60, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1994.
Waves of Opposition: Labor and the Struggle for Democratic Radio, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including Business History Review, History of Education Quarterly, and Media, Culture, and Society. Associate editor of The Samuel Gompers Papers, Volumes 1-3, University of Illinois Press, 1986-89.
In Selling Free Enterprise: The Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism, 1945-60, Elizabeth Fones-Wolf explores the efforts of business leaders to recapture the loyalties of workers and the public after World War II. During the earlier part of the twentieth century, especially during the Great Depression, the labor movement had worked to establish a new political culture that became the basis for President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Its leaders advocated industrial democracy and full employment, social planning, and an expansion of the welfare state. After 1945, however, businesses hoped to persuade the public that free enterprise offered the only path toward economic prosperity. As Fones-Wolf shows, both factions engaged in campaigns to win public support, though the emphasis in her book is on the efforts of corporations.
Organizations such as the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chambers of Commerce took an active role in the campaign to gain public support for conservative beliefs, especially after the Democratic victories in the 1948 election, Fones-Wolf relates in her book. Businesses launched print, radio, television, and movie attacks on liberal economic values. In addition, manufacturers did away with profit-sharing and other liberal policies for employees, replacing these with "economic education" that touted the virtues of free enterprise. The business world also tried to influence education, extending financial support to some schools and emphasizing the advantages of private education, according to Fones-Wolf. She feels that a particularly interesting element of this "assault on labor and liberalism" was the role of the Protestant church. As Fones-Wolf reports, the National Council of Churches, led by oilman Howard Pew, launched an energetic lobbying campaign against church support for the welfare state aimed at correcting what it saw as the clergy's incorrect view of "the relationship of freedom in economies, education, and politics to the basic principles of the Christian religion."
Though Pew did not entirely prevail, he and his followers succeeded in winning over a significant faction within the Council. For Nelson Lichtenstein, writing in the Business History Review, this chapter of Selling Free Enterprise is "particularly revealing." Calling the book a work "of enormous import," the critic appreciated Fones-Wolf's breadth and depth of research and her detailed descriptions of business's campaigns and labor's counterefforts. At the same time, however, Lichtenstein felt that Fones-Wolf does not establish the necessary context within which to view the evidence she presents in the book. "We never learn the extent to which the corporate campaign succeeded," the critic wrote, nor does Fones-Wolf's argument convey "a deeper and more profound understanding of the ideological battle between capital and labor." Journal of Economic Issues contributor Douglas Kinnear made a similar point, observing that "this study would have been much richer if Fones-Wolf had located the ‘selling of free enterprise’ in the broader context of the ideas that worked to protect the status quo and its defenders," and had also placed the labor struggle in historical context. Yet Kinnear acknowledged the importance of Fones-Wolf's subject, concluding that "this book's resonance may be particularly strong in light of the current ideological battles being waged in the American socio-political arena."
Expanding on her argument in Selling Free Enterprise, Fones-Wolf shows in Waves of Opposition: Labor and the Struggle for Democratic Radio that the medium of radio played a significant role in the labor movement from the 1920s through the late 1950s. The Chicago Federation of Labor, for example, founded its own station, WCFL, in 1926 and used it to broadcast reports concerning labor issues. In some areas, unions received free air time. After the United Auto Workers strikes in Flint, Michigan, radio became an important tool for union organizers. In 1935, however, DuPont and the Ford Motor Company began sponsoring pro-capitalist programs that they hoped would counter the influence of the liberal programming. A ban on controversial programming, part of the National Association of Broadcasters' code of ethics, further diminished labor's access to the airwaves. After World War II, however, radio again became a hotly contested site for political influence. Unions, Fones-Wolf reports, challenged corporate-controlled radio by establishing nonprofit stations and promoting FM stations, as well as by purchasing or getting free airtime on networks and local stations. The battle continued through the 1950s, but by the early 1960s the labor movement had lost interest in using radio for its educational and political purposes.
Waves of Opposition, according to a writer for Media Mouse, is an important and informative book that illuminates the ways in which organized labor was able to use radio to achieve some of its goals. Moreover, the book "provides important information on the ongoing evolution of corporate controlled radio, and … can be an important resource in the current telecommunications battles, which seek to demand that the airwaves indeed serve the public interest."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, June 1, 1996, Sarah Lyons Watts, review of Selling Free Enterprise: The Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism, 1945-60, p. 928.
American Studies International, October 1, 1996, Brian Finnegan, review of Selling Free Enterprise, p. 95.
Business History, April 1, 1996, Peter Fearon, review of Selling Free Enterprise, p. 129.
Business History Review, summer, 1995, Nelson Lichtenstein, review of Selling Free Enterprise.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, September 1, 1995, D. Lindstrom, review of Selling Free Enterprise, p. 175.
Church History, September, 1996, Andrew L. Pratt, review of Selling Free Enterprise, p. 541.
Contemporary Sociology, March 1, 1996, Harland Prechel, review of Selling Free Enterprise, p. 199.
Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, August 1, 2007, Gary D. Rawnsley, review of Waves of Opposition: Labor and the Struggle for Democratic Radio, p. 450.
Journal of American History, March 1, 1996, William J. Puette, review of Selling Free Enterprise, p. 1638.
Journal of Communication, December 1, 2007, Louise M. Benjamin, review of Waves of Opposition, p. 806.
Journal of Economic History, December 1, 1995, Colin Gordon, review of Selling Free Enterprise, p. 962.
Journal of Economic Issues, March 1, 1996, Douglas Kinnear, review of Selling Free Enterprise, p. 330.
Journal of Economic Literature, December 1, 1995, review of Selling Free Enterprise, p. 2111.
Labor History, fall, 1996, Robert H. Zieger, review of Selling Free Enterprise; August 1, 2007, Melvyn Dubofsky, review of Waves of Opposition, p. 389.
Labor Studies Journal, spring, 1997, Marc Linder, review of Selling Free Enterprise.
Labour/Le Travail, spring, 1997, Stephen Scheinberg, review of Selling Free Enterprise.
Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2007, review of Waves of Opposition.
Social Policy, winter, 2006, Brian Kettenring, review of Waves of Opposition.
Sociological Inquiry, summer, 1996, Howard Kimeldorf, review of Selling Free Enterprise.
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History Web site,http://www.as.wvu.edu/ (January 30, 2008), Elizabeth Fones-Wolf faculty profile.
Media Mouse Web site,http://www.mediamouse.org/ (January 30 2008), review of Waves of Opposition.
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