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VISIONARIES IN THEPROGRESSIVE AGE D StevenBlum. Walter Lippmann: Cosmopolitanism in theCentur_v of Total War. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984.205 pp. BruceClayton. Forgotten Prophet: The Life of Randolph Bou111e. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984.X + 275 pp. DavidW. Levy. Herbert Croly of The New Republic. Pnnceton:Princeton University Press, 1985. xvii + 335pp. Graham Adams, Jr. Progressivismevoked the greatest outpouring of political ideas in America since thecampaign to ratify the Constitution. We have never witnessed another era equalto it in this century. Critics participated in a sweeping examination of American values, culture, politics and government. Herbert Croly, Walter Lippmannand Randolph Bourne rank among the most important of these thinkers; the1r biographies help sketch a profile of the Progressive mind. Croly, Lippmann and, to a lesser degree, Bourne, enjoyed similar backgrounds .Herbert Croly, the son of two intellectual journalists, David Goodman Crolyand Jane Cunningham Croly, fell under the influenceof his father, who was adevoteddisciple of Auguste Comte, philosopher of Positivism. At Harvard, the youngCroly studied under George Santayana, William James and Josiah Royce; fora time he pursued graduate work in philosophy but turned to journalism and beganhis career as an art critic for Architectural Record. Walter Lippmann was borninto a prosperous Jewish family in New York City. He entered Harvard with theintentionof preparing himself for a career as an art critic, but he switchedinto philosophyand politics and served for a time as assistant to Santayana. He also considereduniversity teaching, but like Croly, decided to enter journalism. RandolphBourne came into the world with a permanently distorted face, probably theresultof an inept use of forceps at his birth. At the age of four, a severe attack oftuberculosisof the spine made him a hunchback and stunted his growth so that he barely reached the height of five feet. Winning a scholarship to Columbia 236 Graham Adams, Jr. University, he took a Master's degree in sociology. Like Croly and Lippmann, he first contemplated an academic career, but moved into professional writing when he achieved early success as a contributor to Atlantic Monthly. All three men displayed a striking similarity in their analysis of America's problems. In his best and most influential book, The Promise of American Life ( 1909), Croly noted that the nation's identity and unity had always rested onthe belief that America promised the individual an opportunity for economic, spiritual and social fulfillment. Gigantic concentrations of wealth and power in the hands of a few, Croly maintained, now threatened to kill that hope. Jeffersonian beliefs in relatively powerless government, reinforced by an excess of Jacksonian egalitarianism with its distrust of experts, had crippled the country's abilityto cope with twentieth-century realities. Croly advocated a rejuvenation of Hamiltonian principles of strong positive government, which among other measures could take specific steps to end the polarization of wealth and control but not destrov trusts or combines by regulation. In his book, Drift and Mastery (l914i, Lippmann also called for abandonment of antiquated laissez-faire concepts and endorsement of activist government. He blasted Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom as anachronistic because of its emphasis on restoration of small busines~ competition rather than acceptance and public supervision of the modem giant corporation. In 19I2 both Croly and Lippmann cast their votes for Theodore Roosevelt and his program of New Nationalism, which as Levy demonstrates bore the stamp of Croly' s influence. Bourne, the most radical of the three, had already committed himself to socialism even before he had entered college. At the heart of the thought of all three lay a deep concern for the exceptional individual and a faith that these "natural aristocrats" could lead the rest of their fellow-Americans toward a higher civilization. Croly particularly stressed the difference between economic "rugged" individualism and true individualitythe expression of the human personality. People who engaged in the same singleminded pursuit of money remained basically indistinguishable. Human beings achieved genuine individuality only when they pursued their work with ability, disinterestedness, and excellence divorced from the profit motive. Similarly, Lippmann portrayed the superior statesman as an artist motivated by "invention and inspiration." (27). His elite leaders acted as political visionaries who could stimulate intellectual and creative achievement. Bourne, like Croly, warned the youth of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 235-240
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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