The Progressive Era witnessed the nation's most convulsive upheaval, a time of radicalism far beyond the Revolution or anything since. In response to the birth of modern America, one small group of middle-class Americans seized control of the nation and attempted to remake society from bottom to top. They accomplished an astonishing range of triumphs, yet the progressive movement collapsed as the war came to an end amid race riots, strikes, high inflation, and a frenzied Red scare.
Michael McGerr argues the expectations raised by the progressives' utopian hopes have nagged at us ever since. Our current, less-than-epic politics must inevitably disappoint a nation that once thought in epic terms. The New Deal, World War II, the Cold War, the Great Society, and now the war on terrorism have each entailed ambitious plans for America. But the failure of the progressive movement set boundaries around the aspirations of all of these efforts. None of them was as ambitious, as openly determined to transform people and create utopia, as the progressive movement. We have been forced to think modestly ever since that age of bold reform. For all of us, right, center, and left, the age of "fierce discontent" is long over.
|Publisher:||Tantor Media, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Michael McGerr is Paul V. McNutt Professor of History at Indiana University-Bloomington. He is the author of several books on modern American political history and has won numerous teaching awards.
Joe Barrett has been a working stage, screen, and recording booth actor since 1974 and an award-winning and eight-time Audie Award-nominated audiobook narrator since 1999. He also practiced law for five years-but don't hold that against him. Joe is married to actress Andrea Wright, and together they have four children.
Table of Contents
PART ONE: THE PROGRESSIVE OPPORTUNITY
1 "SIGNS OF FRICTION": PORTRAIT OF AMERICA AT CENTURY'S END
2 THE RADICAL CENTER
PART TWO: PROGRESSIVE BATTLES
3 TRANSFORMING AMERICANS
4 ENDING CLASS CONFLICT
5 CONTROLLING BIG BUSINESS
6 THE SHIELD OF SEGREGATION
PART THREE: DISTURBANCE AND DEFEAT
7 THE PROMISE OF LIBERATION
8 THE PURSUIT OF PLEASURE
9 THE PRICE OF VICTORY
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This book discusses the social, economic, and political environment that spawned the Progressive Movement, which lasted from the Reconstruction to the end of World War I. The author characterizes the basis of progressivism as a battle between individualism and mutualism. This battle can be seen in nearly all of the main efforts of the progressives of the time. The Progressive Movement was a response to the excesses of the wealthiest upper ten and the decaying moral standards of that group. The progressives wanted to develop a Middle Class utopia where everyone was treated fair and everyone worked together toward stamping out negative attitudes and lifestyles and by building a unifying force for the future. The author lists the main progressive attempts at achieving this middle class utopia through ending class conflict, controlling big business, and by promoting segregation. The method of ending class conflict was achieved through the support and promotion of labor unions that helped to empower workers and to provide a unifying force against the individualist company owners that had their eye purely on the bottom line. Some of the individualists listed included John D. Rockefeller, Charles Schwab (steel), and J.P. Morgan (finance). Each of these captains of industry attempted to develop trusts, i.e. the Steel Trust, which controlled each industry. This eliminated competition, dissuaded foreign competition, and protected their own positions in their industry. In promoting unions, the progressives helped to level the playing field against the trusts. Through labor strikes, work slowdowns, etc. workers were able to win concessions in reduced work hours, increased pay and benefits. The methods for controlling big business in the early 1900¿s included laissez-faire, socialism, antitrust, regulation, and compensation. Laissez-faire was the level of control preferred by the trusts, which is essentially the government keeping their hands off of business and allowing the marketplace to control itself. Socialism was the opposite of laissez-faire and encouraged the government to nationalize all industries and allow working conditions to be controlled by the government with profits benefiting society as a whole. Neither of these approaches was compatible with the American system and would have led to great social unrest. As a response to the need to control big business, the progressives pursued and gained antitrust laws, which placed significant limits on trusts by promoting open competition. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act was the main law that started antitrust regulation, though it was significantly hampered by Supreme Court decisions. The anti-trust movement was helped along the way by various muck-raking reporters and writers. Upton Sinclair¿s The Jungle showed a picture of the meat packing industry, including working conditions, treatment of animals, and the quality of the beef being sent to consumers. Much of the muck-raking (investigative journalism) and government investigations led to regulations such as the Pure Food and Drug Act which gave the secretary of agriculture the power to fine and imprison business for providing adulterated medicine or poisoned food. Further regulation was implemented with respect to natural resources. The progressives promoted conservation of natural resources and they had a friend in the White House in the person of Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt not only looked at conservation as a means to preserve nature, but also as a means to preserve natural resources for the future growth of industry. Compensation was the movement to tax corporations at both the State and Federal levels. The States eventually started taxing corporations and provided tax incentives to businesses that invested in their State. Segregation is probably the most unacceptable outcome of the progressive movement. At the time that progressives were promoting segregation the U.S. was coming out t