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The Academic Mind and Reform

The Academic Mind and Reform: The Influence of Richard T. Ely in American Life

Copyright Date: 1966
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Academic Mind and Reform
    Book Description:

    For over two generations economist Richard T. Ely popularized a wide spectrum of significant liberal social principles and mirrored many of the dilemmas, frustrations, and successes of the academician as a reformer. He was the originator of many ideas that agitated American reform circles in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and unlike most professors of his time, he frequently engaged in the public controversies that raged around the crucial social issues of the day.

    Through the use of Ely's vast published writings and his large collection of personal papers, Benjamin G. Rader shows him to have been the most provocative spokesman in America of the New Economics which was an important stimulus to the reform efforts in the late nineteenth century. The New Economics inaugurated the institutional economics of the twentieth century and influenced such men as John R. Commons, Thorstein Veblen, Wesley C. Mitchell, and later John K. Galbraith.

    Ely's influence on higher education, Rader concludes, was inestimable. His ideas embodied the antecedents of modern welfare economics, but he was also an important figure in promoting the then-new disciplines of political economy, sociology, agricultural economics, and land economics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6399-4
    Subjects: History, Economics, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-27)

    Waves of heat danced from the New York sidewalks on a sultry midsummer day in 1880. Richard Theodore Ely, a short, pink-cheeked young man had just returned from Europe, walked along the streets in search of temporary work. Before him lay broken pavement and little children playing in dirty, treeless streets. On every side evidence of ugly corruption, of municipal incompetence, of an improper conception of the role of government met his sensitive eyes. His heart sank. What a “painful contrast,” he reflected, with the sweeping breadth, the beauty, and the cleanliness of the streets of Berlin and Liverpool. Nostalgia,...

    (pp. 28-53)

    Rain dampened the gray Adirondacks as a group of approximately fifty men gathered at the Bethesda Parish Building at Saratoga, New York, on September 8, 1885. Richard T. Ely, the thirty-one-year-old Johns Hopkins University professor, arose and addressed the assemblage of economists, ministers, and a few businessmen. They should organize for the purpose of issuing a “proclamation of emancipation” from classical economics, the pugnacious little professor declared. Like the Hebrew prophets of old they should cry out against the sins of their society and replace the dogma which “deified a monstrosity known as economic man.” They should sponsor scientific investigations...

    (pp. 54-82)

    Late in June of 1884 Richard T. Ely and his young bride, Anna, arrived at the Hotel Florence in Pullman, Illinois. Youthful and optimistic, they not only looked forward to their honeymoon but also to studying the Pullman village, a planned and presumably model community. H. M. Alden, editor ofHarper’s New Monthly Magazine, had already promised to publish the results. The paternalistic village sponsored by George M. Pullman, owner of the Pullman Palace Car Company, was in Ely’s opinion a miniature social experiment. As a disciple of the new economics, he planned to put the community to the acid...

  7. Chapter Four “THE GOLDEN MEAN”
    (pp. 83-105)

    When Ely wrote hisLabor Movementin 1886, he firmly believed that the labor movement was preparing the way for a moral regeneration of the American industrial system and for the establishment of the “ideal” system, “the union of capital and labor in the same hands, in grand, wide-reaching, co-operative enterprises, which shall embrace the masses.”¹ The cooperative movement, already well underway, would sweep everything before it, for each day autonomous trade locals joined the Knights of Labor in support of cooperative enterprises. While American cooperatives had often failed in the past, Ely admitted, eventual success was inevitable. Then class...

  8. Chapter Five NEW VISTAS IN THE WEST
    (pp. 106-129)

    Ely returned from a short European trip in the fall of 1891 a troubled and sick man. Still weak from a serious attack of malaria contracted while in Germany, he felt that his position at Johns Hopkins University was no longer tenable. Disgusted with university policy, especially of keeping political economy and history in one department, he had attempted to obtain an endowed chair in “advanced sociology” at Hopkins—only to meet with failure. He was tired of playing a subordinate role to Herbert Baxter Adams. Despite an established reputation among reformers and reform-minded economists, due recognition from the academic...

    (pp. 130-158)

    On the morning of August 14, 1894, a packed crowd of Summer School students and staff assembled in the vast Chautauqua Amphitheatre. They listened expectantly as Bishop John H. Vincent rose to read a prepared statement by Professor RichardT. Ely. Ely, who had recently acquired a beard and pince-nez, sat on the platform staring straight ahead. The audience sensed that Ely would deny the charges that he had been guilty of teaching and practicing heretical economic doctrines. As Vincent read in Ely’s behalf, his voice rolled out across the amphitheatre. “Taking up, first, the series of charges brought against my...

    (pp. 159-191)

    Night after night in August of 1903, Richard Ely suffered from enervating insomnia, but Madison’s exhausting heat and humidity had little to do with his deep anxieties and sleepless nights. He was forty-nine years old, and yet recognition as a top economic theorist still eluded him. Charles J. Bullock, former student and close friend, had recently explained that he had decided not to review Ely’s latest work,Studies in the Evolution of an Industrial Society, because he could not do so favorably. Ely had pinned so many hopes on the book; he sincerely felt that finally he had made an...

  11. Chapter Eight “UNDER ALL, THE LAND”
    (pp. 192-222)

    One fine spring day in 1897, Henry C. Taylor, fresh from Iowa State College, trudged up the hill to Madison’s University Heights. Filled with anxiety about his future, he planned to discuss his problems with the renowned economist Richard Ely. Greeted warmly by Dr. and Mrs. Ely, he explained his predicament. His father felt that Henry should abandon graduate work in economics and specialize in a practical subject like animal husbandry or soil science. But Henry wanted to study agricultural economics, a discipline not yet taught in American colleges. Since coming from Johns Hopkins, Ely replied, he had been searching...

  12. Chapter Nine HIS FINAL YEARS
    (pp. 223-236)

    Like so many old Progressives in the twenties some of Ely’s earlier optimism soured. “I think our civilization has slipped,” he wrote in 1922, “and that we have gone backward as compared with 1914. It is going to take us a long time to get back where we were before the World War.” Although still believing that problems would not “solve themselves,” he had less confidence in the efficacy of government as a tool of reform. Impressed by the findings of the eugenicists of the decade, he increasingly felt that the Progressives had gone too far toward a direct democracy....

  13. APPENDIX: The Works of Richard T. Ely
    (pp. 237-254)
    (pp. 255-258)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 259-278)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 279-279)