A Fabulous Failure: Bill Clinton, American Capitalism, and the Origins of Our Troubled Times

Lecture Room 5 - Arts Building
Tuesday 18 June 2019 (17:00-18:30)

All staff and students welcome! Please join us for a reception afterwards.

Contact: Simon Jackson S.Jackson.1@bham.ac.uk


Centre for Modern and Contemporary History Annual Lecture: 

Nelson Lichtenstein

Distinguished Professor in the Department of History, University of California, Santa Barbara 



“A Fabulous Failure: Bill Clinton, American Capitalism, and the Origins of Our Troubled Times,” argues that neoliberal globalization and rustbelt decline, against which Donald Trump polemicized so effectively in 2016, was hardly an inevitability at the outset of the Clinton presidency. The Republicans of the Reagan-Bush 1980s, were far more ambivalent about free trade and financialization than conventional wisdom holds; more important, the Clintonites came into office with an abundance of plans for reorganizing American capitalism, from the “managed trade” designed to aid Detroit and Pittsburgh to health insurance reform and an initiative to begin the reorganization of American work life. Clinton’s failure had many sources, personal and political, Lichtenstein argues, but perhaps the most important was that his team failed to appreciate the degree to which corporate and financial power had already divorced itself from the confines of a nation-state over which Clinton presided and sought to reform.


Nelson Lichtenstein is Distinguished Professor in the Department of History at UCSB, where he directs the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1966 and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1974. Thereafter he worked in publishing in New York and taught at The Catholic University of America and at the University of Virginia before joining the UCSB faculty in 2001. He is the author or editor of 16 books, including a biography of the labor leader Walter Reuther and State of the Union: A Century of American Labor (2002, 2013 revised). His most recent books are Achieving Workers’ Rights in the Global Economy (2016); The Port Huron Statement: Sources and Legacies of the New Left’s Founding Manifesto (2015); The ILO From Geneva to the Pacific Rim (2015);The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business (2009, 2010); The Right and Labor in America: Politics, Ideology, and Imagination (2012); A Contest of Ideas: Capital, Politics and Labor (2013); and American Capitalism: Social Thought and Political Economy in the Twentieth Century (2006). 

He has served on the editorial board of numerous journals and now is a member of the editorial board of the University of Illinois Press series in working-class history. Professor Lichtenstein has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller and Guggenheim Foundations, the University of California, and from the Fulbright Commission and the Oregon Center for the Humanities. In 2008 he was elected to the Society of American Historians and in 2012 the Sidney Hillman Foundation awarded him its Sol Stetin Award for lifetime achievement in labor history. His reviews and opinion pieces have appeared in The Los Angeles TimesThe New York TimesDissentNew Labor ForumAmerican Prospect, and academic journals. Reporters often seek is comments when they write on labor, politics, and supply chain issues.

Culture and collections

Schools, institutes and departments

Services and facilities