Progressivism: A Very Short Introduction

Progressivism: A Very Short Introduction

Language: English

Pages: 160

ISBN: 019531106X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


After decades of conservative dominance, the election of Barack Obama may signal the beginning of a new progressive era. But what exactly is progressivism? What role has it played in the political, social, and economic history of America?

This very timely Very Short Introduction offers an engaging overview of progressivism in America--its origins, guiding principles, major leaders and major accomplishments. A many-sided reform movement that lasted from the late 1890s until the early 1920s, progressivism emerged as a response to the excesses of the Gilded Age, an era that plunged working Americans into poverty while a new class of ostentatious millionaires built huge mansions and flaunted their wealth. As capitalism ran unchecked and more and more economic power was concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, a sense of social crisis was pervasive. Progressive national leaders like William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, Robert M. La Follette, and Woodrow Wilson, as well as muckraking journalists like Lincoln Steffens and Ida Tarbell, and social workers like Jane Addams and Lillian Wald answered the growing call for change. They fought for worker's compensation, child labor laws, minimum wage and maximum hours legislation; they enacted anti-trust laws, improved living conditions in urban slums, instituted the graduated income tax, won women the right to vote, and laid the groundwork for Roosevelt's New Deal. Nugent shows that the progressives--with the glaring exception of race relations--shared a common conviction that society should be fair to all its members and that governments had a responsibility to see that fairness prevailed.

Offering a succinct history of the broad reform movement that upset a stagnant conservative orthodoxy, this Very Short Introduction reveals many parallels, even lessons, highly appropriate to our own time.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

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single-taxers, Union Laborites, greenbackers, and Grangers. They agreed to run a full slate in November, and did so. They elected five congressmen, gained control of the lower house of the state legislature, and chose the next U.S. senator. It was a near-sweep. Kansas, moreover, was not alone. The Populists—the nickname given to People’s Party voters and supporters—scored nearly as impressively in other western states and in parts of the South. The racial divide had required a separate “Colored

silver dollars at the traditional ratio of sixteen ounces of silver to one of gold. That had been the law from 1792 until 1873, when Congress quietly dropped the silver standard. Gold meant continued scarcity of money and credit; silver meant a better-lubricated flow of goods and services. Eastern businessmen, bankers, and investors were aghast at the prospect of “free silver at 16 to 1,” because by then silver was overvalued at that ratio. Western and southern farmers demanded it with all their

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that divide people and crush their spirit.” He believed profoundly in economic democracy and the common good. In the four-way election of 1912, Debs won more than 900,000 votes, about 6 percent of all those cast. It proved to be, percentagewise, the Socialist Party’s best performance ever in presidential elections. Historians have often questioned why Debs and socialism did not do better, since many who heard him speak responded despite themselves to his eloquent championing of the brotherhood of

1886 the Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railway Company sued the state of Illinois. The Wabash claimed that Illinois’ law regulating its operations violated the clause in the U.S. Constitution that reserves control of interstate commerce to the federal government. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the Wabash, annulling the Illinois law and, effectively, all other state laws regulating railroads. Congress responded quickly, passing—with a bipartisan majority—the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887.

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