Penn Virtual Lightbulb Café: Illusions of Progress by Brent Cebul

Date and Time
Tuesday, January 30, 2024
12:00pm— 1:00pm
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Event Speaker: Brent Cebul, Assistant Professor of History
Moderated by: Walter Licht, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History Emeritus

Illusions of Progress: Business, Poverty, and Liberalism in the American Century illuminates the evolution of 20th century federal economic development and antipoverty programs in order to better understand the long history of public–private partnerships and the persistence of racialized poverty in the United States. During the New Deal and in the years following World War II, “supply side liberalism” positioned economic growth as the wellspring of a virtuous circle of expanding tax revenues and progressive social policies. Yet, by binding their visions of social progress to the interests of capital—and in particular by endowing local businesspeople with broad discretion over the uses of unprecedented federal capacities—liberals often entrenched the very inequalities of power and economic opportunity they imagined their programs solving.  


Moderated by

Walter Licht, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History  Emeritus 

About the Author

Brent Cebul, Assistant Professor of History, works on 20th century United States history with interests in political history and state building, urban history, political economy and capitalism, race and inequality, federalism, and business–state interaction. His recent publications explore the politics of market creation and poverty. Cebul also has an ongoing interest in the digital humanities and was a lead project investigator for Renewing Inequality, which, as part of American Panorama, was awarded the 2019 Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History from the American Historical Association.  

To read an excerpt from Illusions of Progress, click here


Virtual Lightbulb Cafe Series

Would you like to be in a book group with fellow alums from around the world, reading works by Penn Arts & Sciences faculty? Hit the books and get ready to join us for the Penn Arts & Sciences Virtual Lightbulb Café: Faculty Book Series! Our fabulous faculty authors will discuss their new books, describing the inspiration and research behind each, and answer audience questions.

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