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Reinventing The People

Reinventing The People: The Progressive Movement, the Class Problem, and the Origins of Modern Liberalism

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Reinventing The People
    Book Description:

    In this much needed comprehensive study of the Progressive movement, its reformers, their ideology, and the social circumstances they tried to change, Shelton Stromquist contends that the persistence of class conflict in America challenged the very defining feature of Progressivism: its promise of social harmony through democratic renewal._x000B_Profiling the movement's work in diverse arenas of social reform, politics, labor regulation and "race improvement," Stromquist argues that while progressive reformers may have emphasized different programs, they crafted a common language of social reconciliation in which an imagined civic community ("the People") would transcend parochial class and political loyalties. As progressive reformers sought to reinvent a society in which class had no enduring place, they also marginalized new immigrants and African Americans as being unprepared for civic responsibilities. In so doing, Stromquist argues that Progressives laid the foundation for twentieth-century liberals' inability to see their world in class terms and to conceive of social remedies that might alter the structures of class power._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09261-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Progressives and the Problem of Class
    (pp. 1-12)

    With the outbreak of the Pullman car shopworkers’ strike in 1894, Jane Addams faced a formidable challenge. She felt torn between sympathy for the strikers and her own desire to bridge the class divisions that the strike revealed. She was frustrated that the arbitration efforts of the Chicago Civic Federation had not borne fruit. As the only member of the arbitration committee to have met with the striking Pullman employees and listened to their grievances, she had also dutifully listened to the official pronouncement of the Pullman managers, who “insisted there was nothing to arbitrate.”¹ With that pronouncement, the arbitration...

  5. 1 The Labor Problem and the Crisis of the Old Order
    (pp. 13-32)

    Stalwart labor reformer George McNeill spoke for a growing segment of working-class partisans in the 1880s who believed class conflict had become an endemic feature of industrial society and saw a war of seemingly irreconcilable class interests as inevitable. Nearly a year after the great railroad strikes of 1877, McNeill addressed a grand labor parade and picnic in Chicago on July 4, 1878, and railed against what he called “a serious and bloody communistic conspiracy” of “railroad kings, merchant princes and cotton lords” who “proposed to reduce workmen to the level of paupers and take from them the elective franchise.”...

  6. 2 Constituting Progressivism
    (pp. 33-55)

    Henry Demarest Lloyd, like many American reformers, viewed the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 as a moment of great, if unrealized, promise. For a brief summer, a planned “White City,” the orderly architecture and carefully orchestrated congresses of which suggested the possibility of a new urban order, materialized on the shores of Lake Michigan. Staged, ironically, in the first months of the century’s deepest depression and on the eve of its most bitter episode of labor conflict, the Chicago fair nonetheless served as a beacon for many would-be reformers long after its gates closed. In lectures to middle-class audiences during...

  7. 3 The Politics of Reform
    (pp. 56-82)

    Jane Addams’s battle with ward boss Johnny Powers gave her a healthy respect for the ability of “corrupt” politicians to insinuate themselves into the lives of their constituents. Local bosses addressed the individual needs of their constituents and cemented political loyalty through human friendliness. She called machine politics “this stalking survival of village kindness.” By contrast, the cold and aloof approach of “good men” seeking to root out corruption so often failed because of their conviction that “the righteous do not need to be agreeable.” Finding loyalty to the machine to be a natural product of the human environment encountered...

  8. 4 Communities of Reformers
    (pp. 83-106)

    Like many of her contemporaries, Vida Scudder moved within a densely organized world of social reform during the early years of the Progressive Era. The orbits of her activity centered around Boston’s settlements and Wellesley College, where she taught English literature. With her reform colleagues she shared a commitment to harmonizing the interests of the “alienated classes.” Although she read Marx, supported strikers, and eventually joined the Socialist Party, Scudder’s commitment to the search for social unity and a harmony of interests persisted.¹ And in those respects, she remained deeply connected to the Progressive movement.

    The pioneering efforts of a...

  9. 5 Class Bridging and the World of Female Reform
    (pp. 107-130)

    When journalist Rheta Childe Dorr sought to justify women’s active role in public life, she easily turned to a maternalist metaphor that was commonplace among women reformers in 1910.¹ That metaphor wove together the “natural” claims of women as moral protectors of home and family with the argument that the fulfillment of such responsibilities required governmental action and, above all, woman suffrage. This “domestication of politics,” which grew directly out of the gendered world of nineteenth-century women’s reform activism, profoundly influenced the ideological and programmatic direction of the Progressive movement.

    Through a host of voluntary organizations, women confronted what Mary...

  10. 6 The Boundaries of Difference
    (pp. 131-164)

    Progressive reformers believed that harmony between the classes would come only by building democratic community. But like Simon Patten, they worried that racial and ethnic differences would impede that progress.¹ Society’s capacity to prepare racially distinct people for the responsibilities of citizenship and ultimately assimilate them remained a central problem with which the reformers wrestled. Some, such as labor economist John R. Commons and journalist Ray Stannard Baker, believed the process would be protracted; others, such as Jane Addams and Mary White Ovington, had confidence that it could be accomplished more quickly with the correct approach.

    If Progressives conjured up...

  11. 7 Class Wars and the Crisis of Progressivism
    (pp. 165-190)

    When Frank Walsh accepted the chairmanship of the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations (USCIR) in the fall of 1913 and its charge to investigate “the causes of industrial unrest,” he publicly expressed views on class conflict that seemed consistent with a tradition of class reconciliation deeply rooted in the mainstream of the Progressive movement. At the same time, he agreed privately with the sentiments of close political allies from Kansas City who argued that “our present industrial system should be placed on trial.”¹ During two years of hearings that crisscrossed the country and produced acrimonious encounters with corporate titans and...

  12. CONCLUSION: War and the Ragged Edges of Reform
    (pp. 191-204)

    The historical record of twentieth-century liberalism is both triumphant and tortured. The roots of this “new liberalism” lay in its critique and, ultimately, abandonment of classical liberalism, with its excessive deference to individual liberty and faith in the natural justice of the marketplace. By the end of the nineteenth century, many reformers believed such principles had proved bankrupt in the face of deepening social crises. A new theory and practice of liberalism, in the guise of what contemporaries called “progressivism,” gradually took shape out of the shock and disorientation brought on by raging industrialization and the class warfare it precipitated.¹...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 205-276)
  14. Index
    (pp. 277-289)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 290-294)