This chapter examines the content and context of what is termed “postwar liberalism”, which coupled a new commitment to anti-discrimination with a rejection of the more class-conscious and social democratic orientation of the New Deal. Postwar liberalism represents a new understanding of American liberalism that centrally featured a strong, principled stand against racial discrimination. Although presenting itself as articulating a long-standing truth, this paradigm in fact represented an important reconfiguration of the meanings of both liberalism and race. While representing a historic advance against deeply embedded norms of white supremacy, postwar liberals failed to recognize the immense significance of growing patterns of racial inequality that did not fit into their ideological frame. By making a dramatic, controversial, and highly public commitment to resolving the American dilemma, postwar liberals promoted a vision of American democracy that would prove immensely more difficult to approximate than they realized at the time.
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