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COVID and the Roots of Reform

NEW ROCHELLE, NEW YORK - JULY 03: Friends and family mourn the death of Conrad Coleman Jr. following his funeral service on July 03, 2020 in New Rochelle, New York. Coleman, 39, died of COVID-19 on June 20, 2020, jus... NEW ROCHELLE, NEW YORK - JULY 03: Friends and family mourn the death of Conrad Coleman Jr. following his funeral service on July 03, 2020 in New Rochelle, New York. Coleman, 39, died of COVID-19 on June 20, 2020, just over two months after his father Conrad Coleman Sr. also died of the disease. The socially-distanced service was held at the New York Covenant Church in New Rochelle, New York which was an early epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the eastern United States. The African American community has been especially hard-hit by coronavirus pandemic, in terms of both illnesses and deaths. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 3, 2021 1:30 p.m.

When I was 19 I got assigned to a work study job as a research assistant for Daniel Rodgers, a history professor who, fortuitously, turned out to be one of two or three people who taught me how to think. The research I was going to do was for a project that was eventually published a decade later as Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age. The book is about the trans-Atlantic connections, borrowings, rivalries between reformers and states during the period in which virtually all North Atlantic states devised some version of what we call welfare states. There were rich well-springs of home grown reformism in the US. But looking to models in Europe was a constant focus. A recurrent theme is that the US so often seemed to be a late arriver to these reforms or resisted them because of beliefs in American exceptionalism or a more general resistance to state action.

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