Most of Lizabeth Cohen’s work has probed the interconnections between people’s social and cultural experiences and their political orientations during the twentieth century. Her numerous essays range widely from urban, social, and political history to material and popular culture in the last century. Cohen wrote Making A New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919–1939 (Cambridge University Press, 1990; paperback, 1992), for which she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1991 and a winner of the Bancroft Prize for Distinguished Work in American History from Columbia University. At Harvard, Cohen is the Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies in the history department and American civilization program.
At the Radcliffe Institute, Cohen plans to complete her book “A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America,” to be published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2002. In it, Cohen will posit that, after World War II, a consensus developed around the ideal of what she calls a “consumers’ republic”: a conviction that an economy and culture built on mass consumption would deliver widespread prosperity as well as fulfill long-sought American goals of egalitarianism and democracy. Her book will also illuminate the complex effects of this mass consumption-based order on the social relations, physical landscape, and political culture of the postwar era.
Among Cohen’s many distinctions and honors are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council for Learned Societies, plus numerous awards for her writings. She is serving a one-year term as president of the Urban History Association. She earned her PhD in American history at the University of California at Berkeley.