MADCAP Presents: “Staging the Administrative State: The Board of Tax Appeals in Plain Sight, 1935-1937,” a presentation by Romain Huret of The School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, Paris
Thursday October 19, 4:00-5:30pm, Nau Hall 342
This paper focuses on an obscure administrative body – the Board of Tax Appeals – that suddenly came into the spotlight in the mid-1930s during the Andrew W. Mellon trial. If historians have carefully traced the intellectual origins of administrative agencies and administrative law in early twentieth-century and have paid close attention to the decisive role of New Dealers, they have neglected the concrete dimension of its rise - what Abe Fortas called the "theater of law." Until the New Deal, the administrative state was almost invisible for millions of Americans. Commissions and agencies were largely out-of-sight, and the administrative state took the form of cold and anonymous decisions taken in Washington D.C. By revisiting the literature on the New Deal state, this paper shows how the trial gave New Dealers the opportunity to provide a more concrete and solemn dimension to administrative agencies. It was part of an attempt to legitimize the new federal power by inscribing it in the daily lives of citizens.