Fraser, Steven 1945–
Fraser, Steven 1945–
PERSONAL: Born 1945. Education: Rutgers University, Ph.D.
CAREER: Historian and writer.
AWARDS, HONORS: Philip Taft Prize for best book in labor history, c. 1991, for Labor Will Rule: Sidney Hillman and the Rise of American Labor.
Labor Will Rule: Sidney Hillman and the Rise of American Labor, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1991.
(Editor) The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1995.
(Editor, with Joshua B. Freeman) Audacious Democracy: Labor, Intellectuals, and the Social Reconstruction of America, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1997.
(Editor, with Gerstle) Ruling America: A History of Wealth and Power in a Democracy, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.
Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to the Los Angeles Times, Nation, American Prospect, Raritan, and Dissent.
SIDELIGHTS: Steven Fraser has written and edited books primarily focusing on American capitalism and the various attempts over history to reform it. In Labor Will Rule: Sidney Hillman and the Rise of American Labor he details the story of Hillman, a union leader and counselor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the onset of the New Deal. Hillman began his career as a leader of Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and went on to help found the Congress of Industrial Organizations. He also held many advisory posts in the Roosevelt administration and is credited with helping Roosevelt initiate the New Deal that, among other things, emphasized support for working people, such as the creation of Social Security and the establishment of the minimum wage. A Jewish socialist, Hillman was also concerned with such issues as racial equality and women's right to work. Although successful in many ways, Hillman lost stature among his Jewish socialist colleagues, who began to view him as a Washington insider.
Genevieve Stuttaford, writing in Publishers Weekly, called Labor Will Rule "a superb, vibrant biography that mirrors American labor's 'sea change' from insurgent proletariat to a force integrated into capitalist mass culture." In a review in the Nation, Susan A. Glenn felt that the book does not reveal enough about the private life of Glenn, but also called Fraser's effort a "richly documented and incredibly detailed story of labor's rise and fall from power." Business History Review contributor Robert Asher wrote that "Fraser has written an erudite, deeply researched account of the public career and times of Sidney Hillman, one of the most important labor leaders in the United States in the twentieth century."
As editor of The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America Fraser presents nineteen essays arguing against the theories set forth in the controversial 1996 bestseller, The Bell Curve, in which Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrstein argue that there are racial differences in intelligence due to genetics. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented: "This collection, unfortunately, has the flaws of a rush job: the contributors, notably the conservative Thomas Sowell, do not respond to each other." Brian McCombie, writing in Booklist, felt that the essays taken as a whole provide "a thorough and readable critique of a controversial work." In a review in USA Today, Ralph Hyatt found that "less academic-oriented readers, especially those unfamiliar with the language of intelligence and its measurement, may have to read more slowly, but it will be worth the time and effort."
Fraser also co-edited Audacious Democracy: Labor, Intellectuals, and the Social Reconstruction of America, with Joshua B. Freeman. The book features writings from labor leaders, academics, and others addressing the role and future of labor in America. Mary Carroll, writing in Booklist, noted that the book urges "new cooperation in articulating and organizing opposition to corporate America's demand for an antidemocratic monopoly on power."
In Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life Fraser looks at the American system of capitalism over the course of two centuries, the leaders of American industry and economics, and the varying positive and negative views the public has taken of America's financial leaders. In addition to standard research materials about finance and economic history in the United States, Fraser also turns to popular culture's comments in such venues as cartoons, songs, and promotional literature. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that Fraser opts for "excesses of enthusiasm over clarity," but went on to note that the author "tells a monumental story with real energy." Harold Meyerson, writing in the American Prospect, felt that while the book "can in spots seem arbitrary in its focus and repetitive in its emphasis," Fraser's "scholarship, over a vast range of disparate materials, is dazzling."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Prospect, April, 2005, Harold Meyerson, review of Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life, 62.
Booklist, April 15, 1995, Brian McCombie, review of Labor Will Rule: Sidney Hillman and the Rise of American Labor, p. 1456; September 1, 1997, Mary Carroll, review of Audacious Democracy: Labor, Intellectuals, and the Social Reconstruction of America, p. 37.
Business History Review, spring, 1992, Robert Asher, review of Labor Will Rule, p. 180.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2004, review of Every Man a Speculator, p. 1130.
Labor Studies Journal, fall, 1996, Gilbert J. Gall, review of Labor Will Rule, p. 82.
Labour/Le Travail, spring, 1996, review of Labor Will Rule, pp. 283-287.
Nation, March 2, 1992, Susan A. Glenn, review of Labor Will Rule, p. 274.
National Review, April 17, 1995, Dan Seligman, review of Labor Will Rule, p. 68.
Progressive, June, 1994, Marc Karson, review of Labor Will Rule, p. 39.
Publishers Weekly, April 12, 1991, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Labor Will Rule, p. 48; March 13, 1995, review of The Bell Curve Wars: Race, Intelligence, and the Future of America, p. 64; January 3, 2005, review of Every Man a Speculator, p. 46.
Society, March-April, 1997, J. Philippe Rushton, review of The Bell Curve Wars, p. 78.
USA Today, November, 1995, Ralph Hyatt, review of Labor Will Rule, p. 96.