The Fortunes of Progressivism, 1919-1929
By Kevin C. Murphy, Copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved.
Intro | Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Conclusion
With very few exceptions, the conventional narrative of American history dates the end of the Progressive Era to the postwar turmoil of 1919 and 1920, culminating with the election of Warren G. Harding and a mandate for Normalcy. And yet, as this dissertation explores, progressives, while knocked back on their heels by these experiences, nonetheless continued to fight for change even during the unfavorable political climate of the Twenties. The Era of Normalcy itself was a much more chaotic and contested political period -- marked by strikes, race riots, agrarian unrest, cultural conflict, government scandals, and economic depression -- than the popular imagination often recalls.
While examining the trajectory of progressives during the Harding and Coolidge years, this study also inquires into how civic progressivism -- a philosophy rooted in preserving the public interest and producing change through elevated citizenship and educated public opinion -- was tempered and transformed by the events of the post-war period and the New Era.
With an eye to the many fruitful and flourishing fields that have come to enhance the study of political ideology in recent decades, this dissertation revisits the question of progressive persistence, and examines the rhetorical and ideological transformations it was forced to make to remain relevant in an age of consumerism, technological change, and cultural conflict. In so doing, this study aims to reevaluate progressivism's contributions to the New Era and help to define the ideological transformations that occurred between early twentieth century reform and the liberalism of the New Deal.
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