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The Age of Reform by Richard Hofstadter

The Age of Reform (1955)

by Richard Hofstadter

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I remember having to read this in High School and finding it tough to stay awake while reading it. I recently picked it up again to reread it and genuinely enjoyed it the second time. It is a good history of the American reform movements at the end of the 19th century and helps explain the motivations of the supporters of William Jennings Bryant. ( )
  M_Clark | Apr 26, 2016 |
http:/bactra.org/weblog/algae-2011-11.html#hofstadter ( )
  cshalizi | Mar 14, 2012 |
Love him or hate him, you just can't get around him. Hofstadter takes up a strong (and contested) position on the Populists, as already addressed in Week 2. He argues more extensively in this chapter that the irony of Populism is that, though they may have gone down to political defeat, they achieved most of their goals by the very fact that most of their causes became law. In the classic role of the third party, they were like bees, "once they have stung, they die" (pp. 97 and 108- 8 9).

Many would contest the idea that Populism was so very successful. Particularly Lawrence Goodwyn, but that will have to wait. Many too would contest Hofstadter's emphasis on the "success-hungriness" of the Populist leadership. As he did with Abraham Lincoln in The American Political Tradition, so he does with the Populist leaders such as General Weaver (p. 105). Ambition, not ideals, drive Hofstadter's Populists. Turning to free silver as the definitive issue, these ambitious leaders essentially sold out the movement for their own moment.

In sections entitled "The Golden Age and After" and "The Vanishing Hayseed" he traces what happened to the farmers' movement after the end of Populism. Despite the sentimental lament for a lost agrarian past, the farmers have done quite well in 20th century America. The farmers who had once been populists became the agribusiness bloc, and at the time of writing ( 1956) "industrial America goes on producing the social, surpluses out of which the commercial farmers are subsidized" (p. 120).1 One more irony of populism too. As the "hayseed" vanished, so too did the farmer's association with the laboring man. Taking up an increasingly conservative position, "the tone of the farmer's movement was completely transformed" and agribusiness was far more likely to support management than strikers 1( p. 123 ). In the end, the farmers' rebellion was turned into its opposite.
  mdobe | Jul 23, 2011 |
A critical and contextual look at the Populist and Progressive movements in American politics; where they succeeded and failed, what forces shaped them and what their legacy was. Good background into a movement that I view as a big part of my political legacy. It has definitely removed any rose-colored view of them I might have had, but I’m still left with the lasting and important message that they accomplished a lot of worthwhile social and political change with minimal chaos and violence, whatever their faults may have been. This basically re-affirms why I identify as a Progressive to begin with. ( )
  jddunn | Nov 21, 2010 |
3196. The Age of Reform / From Bryan to F.D.R., by Richard Hofstadter (read May 16, 1999) This was on the National Review's recent list of 100 best non-fiction books of the century (no. 42 thereon) and reading it brings to only 12 the number of books on that list I have read. Some of this book, especially that part on the Populists, is very insightful and I enjoyed. Some other parts were less fascinating. But I liked the book better than the same
author's The Progressive Historians / Turner, Beard, Parrington (read 2 March 1997). ( )
  Schmerguls | Dec 5, 2007 |
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Introduction -- Just as the cycle of American history from the Civil War to the 1890's can be thought of chiefly as a period of industrial and continental expansion and political conservatism, so the age that has just passed, running from about 1890 to the second World War, can be considered an age of reform.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394700953, Mass Market Paperback)

This book is a landmark in American political thought. It examines the passion for progress and reform that colored the entire period from 1890 to 1940 -- with startling and stimulating results. it searches out the moral and emotional motives of the reformers the myths and dreams in which they believed, and the realities with which they had to compromise.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:48 -0400)

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