Beyond the Broker State

Federal Policies Toward Small Business, 1936-1961

By Jonathan J. Bean

298 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 5 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5425-9
    Published: March 2001
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6030-4
    Published: November 2000
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8671-2
    Published: November 2000

Luther H. Hodges Jr. and Luther H. Hodges Sr. Series on Business, Entrepreneurship, and Public Policy

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Awards & distinctions

1997 Henry Adams Prize, Society for History in the Federal Government

Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln both considered small business the backbone of American democracy and free enterprise. In Beyond the Broker State, Jonathan Bean considers the impact of this ideology on American politics from the Great Depression to the creation of the Small Business Administration during the Eisenhower administration. Bean's analysis of public policy toward small business during this period challenges the long-accepted definition of politics as the interplay of organized interest groups, mediated by a 'broker-state' government. Specifically, he highlights the unorganized nature of the small business community and the ideological appeal that small business held for key members of Congress. Bean focuses on anti-chain-store legislation beginning in the 1930s and on the establishment of federal small business agencies in the 1940s and 1950s. According to Bean, Congress, inspired by the rhetoric of crisis, often misinterpreted or misrepresented the threat posed to small business from large corporations, and as a result, protective legislation sometimes worked against the interests it was meant to serve. Despite this misguided aid, argues Bean, small business has proved to be a remarkably resilient, if still unorganized, force.

About the Author

Jonathan J. Bean is assistant professor of history at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
For more information about Jonathan J. Bean, visit the Author Page.


“An excellent book that is invaluable to twentieth-century political and business historians. By bringing small business back into political history, Bean provides a shrewd analysis of an important area of public policy that has been downplayed by historians and political scientists. His work raises important challenges to the current historiography on business-government relations.”--American Historical Review

"This valuable history of public policy toward small business provides ample grounds for suspicion of either the effectiveness of, or the need for, an 'industrial policy' in the interests of what has proven to be an enduring and richly resilient sector of the American economy and society."--Stuart Bruchey, Columbia University