Share this

The Mutual Housing Experiment: New Deal Communities for the Urban Middle Class, Kristin M. Szylvian

Reviewed by Philip Rocco



The political era of the New Deal was nothing if not exceptional. By realigning political coalitions, the dual crises of the Great Depression and World War II gave the federal government an opportunity to systematically intervene in the economy and society. Yet in many cases, these interventions were also innovations. In conditions of crisis, politicians, experts, and labor organizers drew on both expertise and tacit knowledge to develop and test out new programmatic ideas. One such experiment, chronicled in Kristin M. Szylvian's excellent book, was the construction of cooperative housing under the auspices of the Federal Works Agency (FWA). In the small handful of communities developed under the FWA's Mutual Plan, residents collectively owned and managed affordable housing. Yet the project was stillborn. By the 1950s, policymakers had turned their attention toward the idea of “home ownership for all,” supported by the federal subsidy of commercial market mortgages.

Szylvian's narrative forces us to reexamine the New Deal as a moment of government experimentation delimited by powerful market actors. The ideas that animated the Mutual Plan emerged organically from reformers’ on-the-ground experiences with federal emergency relief efforts. One of these reformers was Colonel Lawrence Westbrook, a Texas politician turned New Deal admin

To continue reading, see options above.

About PSQ's Editor

Demetrios James Caraley

Full Access

Join the Academy of Political Science and automatically receive Political Science Quarterly.

Editor’s spotlight

North Korea and the West

The Debate over North Korea


Search the Archives

Publishing since 1886, PSQ is the most widely read and accessible scholarly journal with distinguished contributors such as: Lisa Anderson, Robert A. Dahl, Samuel P. Huntington, Robert Jervis, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Theda Skocpol, Woodrow Wilson

view additional issues

New APS Book

Continuing Issues in U.S. National Security Policy   CONTINUING ISSUES IN U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY

Most read

Articles | Book reviews

Understanding the Bush Doctrine
Robert Jervis

The Study of Administration
Woodrow Wilson

Notes on Roosevelt's "Quarantine" Speech
Dorothy Borg

view all

About US

Academy of Political Science

The Academy of Political Science, promotes objective, scholarly analyses of political, social, and economic issues. Through its conferences and publications APS provides analysis and insight into both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Political Science Quarterly

With neither an ideological nor a partisan bias, PSQ looks at facts and analyzes data objectively to help readers understand what is really going on in national and world affairs.

Stay Connected

newsstand locator
About APS