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Reinventing The People

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

Shelton Stromquist

Publication Year: 2005

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_

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: The Working Class in American History


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Title Page

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p. iii

Copyright Page

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p. iv


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p. v

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pp. vii-x

Books often come to be written by circuitous paths. This one is no exception. It began as an offshoot of a larger project on the transformation of working-class political culture in the Progressive Era. In the course of that research, I confronted what appeared to be an inescapable conclusion: not only had a “Progressive movement” existed, despite claims by some historians to...

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Introduction: Progressives and the Problem of Class

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pp. 1-11

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...

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1. The Labor Problem and the Crisis of the Old Order

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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...

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2. Constituting Progressivism

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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...

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3. The Politics of Reform

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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...

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4. Communities of Reformers

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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.” ...

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5. Class Bridging and the World of Female Reform

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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...

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6. The Boundaries of Difference

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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...

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7. Class Wars and the Crisis of Progressivism

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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...

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Conclusion: War and the Ragged Edges of Reform

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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...


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pp. 205-276


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pp. 277-292

E-ISBN-13: 9780252092619
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252030260

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: The Working Class in American History
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OCLC Number: 785782177
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Reinventing The People

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Working class -- Political activity -- United States.
  • Social reformers -- United States.
  • Social classes -- United States.
  • Progressivism (United States politics).
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