Sociology Index

PROGRESSIVISM

Progressivism is a political philosophy characterizing American society from approximately 1890 to 1920. Progressivism is set against decades of expansion and growth where progressives became acutely aware of the price paid for this development in terms of inequality and social problems. Progressivism found support among small businessmen, professionals, and middle-class urban reformers, in contrast to the disgruntled farmers who fueled the Populist movement.

Historians often describe the Progressivism as the urban counterpart to Populism. Although the two movements shared some characteristics, they also had some important differences. To address these they called for policy committed to social justice and social democracy. They found new sympathy for the poor, for minorities, and for women and children. To address the needs of these peoples progressivism saw a need for a strong central government and increasing regulation of many segments of the business world.

These attitudes about the role of the state are sometimes referred to as ‘progressive liberalism.’ In the end, however, both Progressives and Populists left a lasting stamp on the nation's history. Progressivism became highly significant during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe. The contemporary political conception of progressivism in the culture of the Western world emerged from the vast social changes brought about by industrialization in the Western world in the late-19th century.

What are the origins of Progressivism and its impact on American government and society? What social, economic, and political factors fostered the Progressive movement? Compare the goals and accomplishments of the Progressives and the Populists. Which movement was more successful? Why might some historians argue that Progressivism was the Dawn of Liberalism?

Books on Progressivism

American Progressivism: A Reader - Ronald J. Pestritto (Editor), William J. Atto. American Progressivism is compilation of some of the most important essays, speeches, and book excerpts from the leading figures of national Progressivism.