Diversity of Progressivism

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Posted by elona from the Education category at 30 Mar 2023 03:09:40 pm.
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progressivism, in the United States, political and social-reform movement that brought major changes to American politics and government during the first two decades of the 20th century.
Diversity of Progressivism preformers made the first comprehensive effort within the American context to address the problems that arose with the emergence of a modern urban and industrial society. The U.S. population nearly doubled between 1870 and 1900. Urbanization and immigration increased at rapid rates and were accompanied by a shift from local small-scale manufacturing and commerce to large-scale factory production and colossal national corporations. Technological breakthroughs and frenzied searches for new markets and sources of capital caused unprecedented economic growth. From 1863 to 1899, manufacturing production rose by more than 800 percent. But that dynamic growth also generated profound economic and social ills that challenged the decentralized form of republican government that characterized the United States.
Goals of progressivism
The Progressive movement accommodated a diverse array of reformers—insurgent Republican officeholders, disaffected Democrats, journalists, academics, social workers, and other activists—who formed new organizations and institutions with the common objective of strengthening the national government and making it more responsive to popular economic, social, and political demands. Many progressives viewed themselves as principled reformers at a critical juncture of American history.
Standard Oil Trust: cartoon depiction in Puck magazine
Standard Oil Trust: cartoon depiction in Puck magazine
Above all else, the progressives sought to come to terms with the extreme concentration of wealth among a tiny elite and the enormous economic and political power of the giant trusts, which they saw as uncontrolled and irresponsible. Those industrial combinations created the perception that opportunities were not equally available in the United States and that growing corporate power threatened the freedom of individuals to earn a living. Reformers excoriated the economic conditions of the 1890s—dubbed the “Gilded Age”—as excessively opulent for the elite and holding little promise for industrial workers and small farmers. Moreover, many believed that the great business interests, represented by newly formed associations such as the National Civic Federation, had captured and corrupted the men and methods of government for their own profit. Party leaders—both Democrats and Republicans—were seen as irresponsible “bosses” who did the bidding of special interests.
In their efforts to grapple with the challenges of industrialization, progressives championed three principal causes. First, they promoted a new governing philosophy that placed less emphasis on rights, especially when invoked in defense of big business, and stressed collective responsibilities and duties. Second, in keeping with these new principles, progressives called for the reconstruction of American politics, hitherto dominated by localized parties, so that a more direct link was formed between government officials and public opinion. Finally, reformers demanded a revamping of governing institutions, so that the power of state legislatures and Congress would be subordinated to an independent executive power—city managers, governors, and a modern presidency—that could truly represent the national interest and tackle the new tasks of government required by changing social and economic conditions. Progressive reformers differed dramatically over how the balance should be struck between those three somewhat competing objectives as well as how the new national state they advocated should address the domestic and international challenges of the new industrial order. But they tended to agree that those were the most important battles that had to be fought in order to bring about a democratic revival.
May 2023
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