Conventional wisdom argues that welfare state builders in the US and Sweden in the 1930s took their cues from labor and labor movements. Capitalists Against Markets makes the startling argument that pragmatic social reformers looked for support not only from below but also from above, taking into account capitalist interests and preferences. Juxtaposing two widely recognized extremes of welfare, the US and Sweden, Peter Swenson shows that employer interests played a role in welfare state development in both countries. This broad-ranging comparative analysis begins with theory about employer interests under varying economic and institutional conditions, especially in labor markets shaped to a considerable degree by employers themselves. It then moves on to in-depth historical evidence starting from very early in the 1900s. The historical narrative reveals striking variations within and across the behavior of their capitalist classes. It gives reason to believe that capitalists were among essential allies of the American welfare state in the 1930s and beyond, not just forces for containing its expansion.
It also shows tjhat Social Democrats in Sweden were kicking in capitalists' open doors as they installed and expanded the various pieces of their world-renowned welfare state through the 1960s. A concluding chapter surveys labor market and social policy changes in both countries since the 1970s in light of the theory and historical analysis of cross-class alliance politics. Provocative in its challenge to conventional thinking and theory, Capitalists Against Markets illuminates the political conditions for greater economic and social security in capitalist societies.