Walter A. Jackson’s Gunnar Myrdal and America’s Conscience is more than a biographical sketch of a unique political economist. Jackson gracefully examines the development of Myrdal’s thought as a political economist and its influence on his study of race relations, paying mindful attention to the historical context and personal influences shaping Myrdal’s work. As a result of Jackson’s research, we understand more fully not only the influence of Myrdal’s approach as a political economist on his study of race relations, but the way Myrdal impacted the American agenda in the important area of race relations.
Shocked by the extreme inequalities of income on his first visit to the United States in 1929, Myrdal returned to Sweden in the 1930s where he continued to write on public policy matters. In 1938, however, Myrdal returned to the United States to begin work for the Carnegie Corporation on the American “Negro problem.” Myrdal came to argue that the “Negro problem” was really a “white problem,” a moral dilemma of a most complex sort that had not only economic dimensions but cultural, political, and structural dimensions as well.
For those interested in one of our most prominent social engineers, for historians interested in the evolution of the study of race relations, and for social activists weary from calculated social injustice, this book will be both a pleasure and an inspiration to read. While some may have intellectual points of difference with Gunnar Myrdal, we remain indebted to his relentless advocacy of an explicit value framework and inspired by his commitment to social justice.
Walter A. Jackson is a Professor of History at North Carolina State University. He is the recipient of the Gustavus Myers Human Rights Award and Gunnar Myrdal and America’s Conscience was nominated for the Pulitzer, Bancroft, and National Book Awards. Jackson attended Duke University and received his PhD in 1983 from Harvard University.
Contributed by Ann Mari May