When analyzing the effects and intents of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal historians determine their views based on the answers to these questions: was the New Deal a continuation of American liberal tradition or was it a repudiation of tradition in the face of the relentless forces of modernization, was the New Deal a reflector of the corporate capitalist attempting to form a partnership with the government to keep its power that would put corporate above government or did the New Deal represent a significant shift in the power to classes and groups that in the past had been powerless, did the New Deal possess ideological coherence or was it just a collected of improvised and pragmatic responses to the crisis? .
The first major school of thought to address the New Deal were the Progressives. To the Progressives they viewed America's past in terms of conflict between liberalism and conservatism, so they believed that the advances made by Roosevelt were a mile stone in the struggle against monopolies and the privileged. They saw it as an advancement towards greater political, economic, and social equality. The next major thinkers on the subject were the conservative writers who accused Roosevelt of undermining individual freedom, and that he was forcing a bloated centralized government on the people that prohibited the self-correcting processes that would have taken place. The New Left historians viewed the New Deal in a more critical light than before. They viewed the New Deal as a temporary solution but did not solve the problems of separation that it claimed to such as poverty and racism. They viewed it in a less positive way than historians before them. Recent historians have viewed the era in a more objective manner, setting aside the favortism for social reform or corporate hegemony, and looking at the limits and achievements of the New Deal.
William E. Leuchtenburg writes about the New Deal as a movement of never seen before conception of the government, not only on the Federal level but even extending into the states with governors implementing "Little New Deals" who added a thick sheaf of social legislation.