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Chapter XIV. "Society the Juggernaut; Man the Devotee?" AFTER READING Kidd's chapter on "The Function of Re­ ligious Belief in the Evolution of Society" in Social Evolu­ tion, Baker questioned in his marginalia whether society was an avatar and man its devotee.1 The nature of society, as well as the philosophical principles which governed it, was a metaphysical quest at McClure's. On the whole, an­ swers were hewn from the heart of social Darwinism and Christianity. And indeed philosophical ethics, dealing with the behavior of society, became the basis of McClure's muck­ raking ideology. In ethics these journalists showed a greater cohesiveness than in any other area. Alike, they all came from back­ grounds of traditional Protestant Christianity, and, alike, they had their views modified by the new science, particu­ larly social Darwinism. What happened in effect is that a social Christianity based on evolution replaced the old credal orthodoxy. Walter Rauschenbusch, that "true prophet," and William James were the principal men who allowed this adoption to be made so painlessly.2 But dur­ ing the muckraking years, many of the radical Christian tendencies continued to be expressed—sabbatarianism and temperance, for example. An understanding of the new ethics and how it replaced the old should allow some in­ sight into the oft-repeated charges that the muckrakers were mere moralists. But before we view the emergence of an ethics based on social Darwinism and the Social Gospel at McClure's, it might be helpful to see how the muckrakers related their mission to religious purpose. ι Kidd, Social Evolution, copy in Baker Papers, Amherst. 2 Baker, American Chronicle, 256; Phillips to Baker, Aug. 16, 1907, Baker Papers; Roseboro' to Tarbell, Nov. 14, 1938, Tarbell Papers. " S O C I E T Y T H E J U G G E R N A U T " The muckrakers, if it is possible to generalize, saw them­ selves as spiritual midwives of a new social order. The sentiments flooded Baker's diary as the popular press de­ rided muckraking: "When there arise men who cry woe: your politics are rotten, your legislatures are corrupt, your business is immoral, you turn on them . . . 8c call them pes­ simists. . . . You may discover that some of them are prophets."3 This was quickly acceded to by other social Christians. The Methodist founder of the ambitious Inter­ national Reform Bureau agreed that McClure's was "one of the prophets that has attacked social evils more bravely and effectively than most of the preachers."4 Such was Mc­ Clure's intent. He saw the magazine "performing a cer­ tain mission" with God "in our plans."5 There is no rea­ son to believe that McClure ever changed his thinking, when as a young man he had written that "the problem of life, consists in the relation of man to God and the facts growing out of this relation."6 "I want to study 'God in History,' " he said, "I want to study statecraft and govern­ ment and law and institutions" as they reveal "this uni­ versal self-centered fact to life and its relations."7 Many of the muckrakers could have agreed with Upton Sinclair, who wrote, "I want to give every second of my time and of my thought, every ounce of my energy, to the worship of my God and to the uttering of the unspeakable message that I know he has given me."8 These scattered references should give some indication of that religious fervor which played no small role in moti­ vating muckraking. But the Origin of Species made it diffi3 Baker, Notebook "I," 104, Baker Papers; see Baker, The Spiritual Unrest (New York, 1909), 281. * Wilbur Fisk Crafts to McClure, Nov. 25, 1913, McClure Papers. 5 McClure, Staff speech, fall, 1904, ibid.; McClure to Hattie McClure, April 23, 1896, ibid. β McClure to Hattie McClure, April 30, 1882, ibid. ι Ibid. 8 Upton Sinclair to Edwin Markham, 1901?, copy in Sinclair Papers, π, Lilly Library, University of Indiana. " S O C I E T Y T H E J U G G E R N A U T " cult to believe in the traditional creation story of the Old Testament. If this meant the erosion of a Bible-oriented ethics—then evolution itself became the source of a new ethics. How was an ethics to be forged from evolution? Lincoln Steffens, having studied science under the Le Conte brothers at the University of California, after gradu­ ation became a pupil of...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400872305
MARC Record
OCLC
614006860
Pages
360
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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