The rise of the foundations in the 20th century coincided with the ascendancy of an East Coast liberal internationalist milieu determined to impose its progressive capitalist vision on an insular and backward-looking traditional elite. In the 1920s & 30s, the United States was experiencing what Richard Hofstadter has called a ‘psychic crisis’, characterised by social convulsions: industrialisation, mass immigration, rapid urbanisation, and large-scale protest movements including violent strikes and industrial unionism. Against a backdrop of growing popular interest in utopianism and socialism alongside the rise of the Christian social gospel, the more attuned sections of the ruling class coalesced around a doctrine of moderate reform in order to militate against the spread of radical politics and usher in a new era of responsible nation-building. By the time the country was back on its feet, the foundations had become a prominent fixture in public affairs, and were well placed to spearhead America’s increasingly assertive global role in the wake of the Second World War.
more from Houman Barekat at the Berlin Review of Books here.