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TwoStepsForward,OneStepBack: ModernizationandTradition,1870-1920 LeRoy Ashby. Saving the Waifs: Reformers and Dependent Children, 1890-1917.Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984. 313 + xiii pp. WilliamJ. Breen. Uncle Sam at Home: Civilian Mobilization, WartimeFederalism, and the Council of National Defense, 1917-1919. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984. 279 + xvii pp. Sean Dennis Cashman. America in the Gilded Age: From the Deathof Lincoln to the Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. New York: NewYork University Press, 1984. 370 + xiv pp. Donald J. Mrozek. Sport and American Mentality, 1880-1910. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1983. 284 + xx pp. Michael Pearlman. To Make Democracy Safe for America: Patriciansand Preparedness in the Progressive Era. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984. 297 + ix pp. John L. Thomas. Alternative America: Henry George, Edward Bellamy, Henty Demarest Lloyd and the Adversary Tradition. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1983. 399 + xi pp. Edward Wagenknecht. American Profile, 1900-1909.Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1982. 365 + ix pp. David Macleod When facing an examination in U.S. history, I was always relieved to read a nice,broad question such as this: "Were innovators, organizers, social critics andreformers of the period 1870-1920primarily nostalgic or forward-looking?" Confronted with seven books as disparate as these, I have to imagine myself answering such a question. At first glance, "forward-looking" seems the alternative to stress. Although manyhistorians detest modernization theory, the rapid pace of change in the U.S.of this era forces them to write incessantly of innovation and, with or without the term, of modernization. This emphasis has been most explicit in theinfluential writings of Samuel P. Hays and Robert Wiebe on the emergence ofa"neworganizational society." Hays stresses the role of "technical systems" in fostering social change. Wiebe portrays a new middle class, heady with technocratic expertise, that imposed its own authority through professional and bureaucratic means. In effect, this interpretation subsumes Progressive reform under the broader rubric of modemization. 1 Partly in reaction to such views, historians may be shifting their emphasis. They have long decried the ravages of late-nineteenth-century urban and corporate growth and have recognized that nostalgia shaped programs such asWoodrow Wilson's New Freedom. Merely repeating these points, however, wouldbe an inadequate response to writers who exaggerate the speed, power and sometimes worth of modernization. The search for more sophisticated CanadianReviewofAmerican Studies, Volume 17,Number 2,Summer 1986,235-249 236 David Macleod formulations isevident in various recent books, including two splendid volumes not reviewed here. In Ministers of Reform, Robert Crunden portrays Progressives as nostalgic innovators in the arts and social reform; they were experimentalists and founders of new professions but also children of the manse, driven to reimpose in secular form the Protestant moralism and individualism that had dominated the culture of their childhoods. An even finer book, remarkable for its elegance of style and sweep of argument, is Jackson Lears'sNo Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920.Far from simple nostalgia, antimodernism in Lears'sviewwasa reaction against the banal weightlessness of contemporary culture, a search for more authentic and intense experience that ended paradoxically by easing Americans' accommodation to a modern consumer culture. 2 None of the books reviewed here is quite so ambitious. Alternative America, by John L. Thomas, is an intellectual biography of three Gilded Age writers- Henry George, Ralph Bellamy and Henry Demarest Lloyd-whose utopian challenge to big business, big cities and social strife was a lament for a declining rural America and a call for Americans to return, by something akin to mass conversion, to the ways of their forefathers. In Thomas' view, the democratic-republican, free labor ideology, though ''dominant" in the North by 1850,was"on the defensive"by 1880,"itsspokesmen forced to assume an adversarial posture in the face of rapid political and economic consolidation" (p. 366). Thus the "adversary tradition" of Thomas' title was distinctly backward-looking; he particularly stresses the "pastoral" element in the three men's vision. All were sons of clergymen who grew up with an urge to preach but no calling to the pulpit. Born too late to join in the moral crusades of antebellum America...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 235-249
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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