Trucking Country is a social history of long-haul trucking that explores the contentious politics of free-market capitalism in post-World War II America. Shane Hamilton paints an eye-opening portrait of the rural highways of the American heartland, and in doing so explains why working-class populist voters are drawn to conservative politicians who seemingly don't represent their financial interests.
Hamilton challenges the popular notion of "red state" conservatism as a devil's bargain between culturally conservative rural workers and economically conservative demagogues in the Republican Party. The roots of rural conservatism, Hamilton demonstrates, took hold long before the culture wars and free-market fanaticism of the 1990s. As Hamilton shows, truckers helped build an economic order that brought low-priced consumer goods to a greater number of Americans. They piloted the big rigs that linked America's factory farms and agribusiness food processors to suburban supermarkets across the country.
Trucking Country is the gripping account of truckers whose support of post-New Deal free enterprise was so virulent that it sparked violent highway blockades in the 1970s. It's the story of "bandit" drivers who inspired country songwriters and Hollywood filmmakers to celebrate the "last American cowboy," and of ordinary blue-collar workers who helped make possible the deregulatory policies of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and set the stage for Wal-Mart to become America's most powerful corporation in today's low-price, low-wage economy.
"This detailed, closely argued book chronicles the U.S. trucking industry's history, particularly its role in rolling back New Deal policies and regulations. Hamilton is a knowledgeable guide to everything from beef trusts to the National Farmers Organization to the 1979 strike that opens the book, in which 75,000 truckers tried to shut down the nation's highway system. Economy and market buffs looking for a different perspective on America's 20th century economic evolution will find this intriguing and informative."--Publishers Weekly
"With the US again engaged in a debate over the merits of regulation versus the free market, the book's academic research touches on some timely historical issues. It is also a fascinating account of the political battles over the diesel engine and the refrigerated truck, which had emerged as the new technology of the 1920s and 1930s and a threat to the dominance of the railroad distribution system for beef and milk by a few large meat packing companies and local dairies."--Jonathan Birchall, Financial Times
"Independent trucking is for Hamilton what Kansas was for Frank--the locus that shows a part of what has gone wrong with American politics."--David Kusnet, Bookforum
"Trucking Country intervenes in [the] crowded debate over the demise of New Deal liberalism from a genuinely original vantage point: the political culture of independent long-haul truckers and the political economy shaped by the agribusiness corporations that they served."--Matthew Lassiter, Democracy
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations and Tables ix
CHAPTER ONE: Food and Power in the New Deal, 1933-43 13
CHAPTER TWO: Chaos, Control, and Country Trucking, 1933-42 43
CHAPTER THREE: Food Fights in War and Peace, 1942-52 69
CHAPTER FOUR: Trucking Culture and Politics in the Agribusiness Era, 1953-61 99
CHAPTER FIVE: Beef Trusts and Asphalt Cowboys 155
CHAPTER SIX: The Milkman and the Milk Hauler 187
CHAPTER SEVEN: Agrarian Trucking Culture and Deregulatory Capitalism, 1960-80 187
Appendix A 239
Appendix B 243