Catalogue


A fierce discontent : the rise and fall of the Progressive movement in America, 1870-1920 /
Michael McGerr.
imprint
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2005.
description
xvi, 395 p. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0195183657 (pbk. : alk. paper), 9780195183658 (pbk. : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2005.
isbn
0195183657 (pbk. : alk. paper)
9780195183658 (pbk. : alk. paper)
general note
Originally published: New York : Free Press, 2003.
catalogue key
5922344
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 321-380) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2003-08-01:
McGerr (history, Indiana Univ., Bloomington) provides a detailed and readable study of Progressivism, the middle-class reaction to the social, economic, and political changes wrought by industrialization. The Gilded Age saw conflict between workers and capitalists, immigrants and natives, men and women, and blacks andwhites. As McGerr demonstrates, the middle class of office workers, small businessmen, and professionals hoped to replace 19th-century individualism and conflict with a sense of community, making America a harmonious and orderly middle-class haven. Progressivism had notable successes-reining in corporate trusts, regulating the purity of food and drugs, and broadening the power of the government to deal with national problems. However, McGerr expands the account to show that Progressivism was seriously weakened by its condescension toward the working class, its complicity in establishing segregation, and the strength of its opponents. This book offers a fascinating description of an America with vast disparities of wealth, unchecked corporate power, and a government serving only the elite. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.-Duncan Stewart, Univ. of Iowa Libs., Iowa City (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 2004-02-01:
This is an intelligent and gracefully written cultural interpretation of US Progressives and their era by the author of The Decline of Popular Politics: The American North, 1865-1928 (CH, May'86). Progressives sought a "radical" but virtuous middle-class utopia--exemplified by the Chautauqua, New York, retreat--through collective self-restraint and, when necessary, enforcement of their values for the transformation of individual and society. Conflicts between Victorianism and industrialization produced middle-class progressive culture. Contemptuous of the powerful and licentious rich and the volatile and licentious working class, these confident reformers (little status anxiety here) sought order through renunciation of individualism, a new understanding between the sexes, paternalistic handling of labor, an internally conflicted approach to managing capitalism, and the enactment of racial segregation, among other things. Brought low by the post-WW I backlash, Progressives might have lost anyway due to the new cultural tendency toward individual liberation and pleasure. McGerr (Indiana Univ., Bloomington) adds a short and (perhaps) leaping conclusion that the Progressives' defeat made New Dealers, "Great Society" liberals, and Reagan revolutionists alike too timid to attempt sweeping change. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Upper division undergraduate and graduate students. K. G. Wilkison Collin County Community College
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2003-08-25:
Indiana University historian McGerr (The Decline of Popular Politics: The American North, 1865-1928) examines the social, cultural and political currents of a movement that, through its early successes and ultimate failure, has defined today's "disappointing" political climate. From the late 19th century until the Great Depression, American progressives undertook a vast array of reforms that shook the nation to its core, from class and labor issues to vice, immigration, women's rights and the thorny issues of race. In three parts, McGerr illuminates the origins of Progressive thought, the movement's meteoric ascent in American life and its descent into "the Red scare, race riots, strikes and inflation," positing that the Progressive vision of remaking America in its own middle-class image eventually sparked a backlash that persists to this day. McGerr hits all the usual notes associated with the Progressive era: the political ascensions of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, and Progressivism's revered heroes (Jane Addams, W.E.B. Du Bois) are well represented. It is McGerr's vivid portrait of turn-of-the-century America, however, that separates this book from the pack. Expertly weaving an array of vignettes and themes throughout his narrative, McGerr pulls into focus a period in American history too often blurred by the rapid pace of social, political and cultural change. He contrasts the values and lives of some of the "upper ten"-America's wealthy, high society families, the Rockefellers and Morgans-with unknown immigrant laborers and farmers the Golubs and Garlands. He discusses the dawn of the automobile as a hallmark in the struggle for women's rights. The plight of African-American boxer Jack Johnson resonates against the backdrop of segregation. And the life and work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the dawn of flight, and communication breakthroughs are also explored. Simply put, this is history at its best. McGerr's wide-ranging narrative opens our eyes not just to the broad strokes of a widely varying movement but to the true dimensions of an explosive era when the society we know today was forged amid rapid industrialization, cultural assimilation and a volatile international scene. Perhaps most compelling, and the mark of any great work of history, is McGerr's success in connecting the Progressive era to the world of today. The social and economic chaos of the 1960s and '70s and the rebirth of conservatism reinforce "the basic lesson of the Progressive era," McGerr concludes: "reformers should not try too much." In today's trying times, McGerr doubts that today's leaders will undertake "anything as ambitious as the Progressives' Great Reconstruction." That prospect, McGerr concludes, "is at once a disappointment and a relief." This is a truly remarkable effort from one of our nation's finest historians. (Sept. 15) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
Review Quotes
"McGerr...captures the defining ethos of the progressive movement."--New York Times
"[McGerr's] ambitious meld of character, policy, and context should make his book a landmark in the field."--The Nation
"Simply put, this is history at its best.... A truly remarkable effort from one of our nation's finest historians."--Publishers Weekly
"Simply put, this is history at its best.... A truly remarkable effort from one of our nation's finest historians."--Publishers Weekly "McGerr...captures the defining ethos of the progressive movement."--New York Times "[McGerr's] ambitious meld of character, policy, and context should make his book a landmark in the field."--The Nation "The author is a master of his subject, and his book may prove to be the definitive text on the triumphs and inevitable downfall of the progressive movement."--Christian Science Monitor
"Simply put, this is history at its best.... A truly remarkable effort from one of our nation's finest historians."--Publishers Weekly"McGerr...captures the defining ethos of the progressive movement."--New York Times"[McGerr's] ambitious meld of character, policy, and context should make his book a landmark in the field."--The Nation"The author is a master of his subject, and his book may prove to be the definitive text on the triumphs and inevitable downfall of the progressive movement."--Christian Science Monitor
"The author is a master of his subject, and his book may prove to be the definitive text on the triumphs and inevitable downfall of the progressive movement."--Christian Science Monitor
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Summaries
Main Description
With America's current and ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor and the constant threat of the disappearance of the middle class, the Progressive Era stands out as a time when the middle class had enough influence on the country to start its own revolution. Before the ProgressiveEra most Americans lived on farms, working from before sunrise to after sundown every day except Sunday with tools that had changed very little for centuries. Just three decades later, America was utterly transformed into a diverse, urban, affluent, leisure-obsessed, teeming multitude. Thisexplosive change was accompanied by extraordinary public-spiritedness as reformers--frightened by class conflict and the breakdown of gender relations--abandoned their traditional faith in individualism and embarked on a crusade to remake other Americans in their own image. The progressives redefined the role of women, rewrote the rules of politics, banned the sale of alcohol, revolutionized marriage, and eventually whipped the nation into a frenzy for joining World War I. These colorful, ambitious battles changed the face of American culture and politics andestablished the modern liberal pledge to use government power in the name of broad social good. But the progressives, unable to deliver on all of their promises, soon discovered that Americans retained a powerful commitment to individual freedom. Ironically, the progressive movement helpedreestablish the power of conservatism and ensured that America would never be wholly liberal or conservative for generations to come. Michael McGerr's A Fierce Discontent recreates a time of unprecedented turbulence and unending fascination, showing the first American middle-class revolution. Far bolder than the New Deal of FDR or the New Frontier of JFK, the Progressive Era was a time when everything was up for grabs andperfection beckoned.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments
Preface
The Progressive Opportunity
""Signs of Friction"": Portrait of America at Century's End
The Radical Center
Progressive Battles
TRansforming Americans
Ending Class Conflict
Controlling Big Business
The Shield of Segregation
Disturbance and Defeat
The Promise of Liberation
The Pursuit of Pleasure
The Price of Victory
Conclusion
Notes
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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