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The American Political Tradition: And the Men Who Made it Paperback – April 23, 1989
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The point Hofstadter consistently made is how important pragmatic considerations were in the evolution of the great political shakers and movers of American political annals. He rejects the view of historian Charles Beard and others about the impact of economic determinism in the foundation and shaping of early America. Hofstadter does not discount its impact, but cites the pragmatic necessity of studious compromise involving the interests of important American sociological groups which were often disparate, such as the manufacturing interests of the north and the rural farming interests of the south, as well as slavery and anti-slavery interests. The need for compromise influenced Thomas Jefferson in constructing a U.S. Constitution, which relied on the separation powers doctrine of English philosopher John Locke and that of separation of powers advanced by French social scientist Montesquieu.
The chapter on Franklin Delano Roosevelt is fascinating as a study in political pragmatism. Roosevelt ran on a Democratic Party platform for 1932 which rivals one of the most conservative doctrines ever put on paper by an American political party. He initially criticized incumbent President Herbert Hoover for spending too much money in dealing with the Depression and its related effects. Once in office he changed his mind and forged a government activist agenda embraced by progressive reformers.Read more ›
Hofstadter takes as his guide one figure from each generation starting from the beginning of the Republic, and through biographical sketch describes both the historical figure and the time period he is depicting. Beginning with Jefferson and including people such as Jackson, Lincoln, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, Hofstadter demonstrates how a combination of the great men and the times they lived in shaped what have come down to us as the leading tradition in American politics: the belief in American greatness, individualism, and compassion.
The most significant contribution of this book is to show how these men, who have come down to us as legendary and nearly mythological figures were very much political animals. Just like Bill Clinton and George Bush make decisions today based on political calculation, so to do Lincoln and Jefferson. That these men were not demigods but in fact mere humans makes their achievements that much more incredible.
In each of these sketches, all masterful in their unique viewpoints and careful analytical approach, Hofstadter sees similarities that quickly bubble to the surface. In all of them, the consistent struggle is that of the conflict between differing views of economic organization. That is the prism through which Hofstadter constructs his view of American political development. In all of this, we are treated to a great ride through our nation's history from an historian who refuses to tell the familiar story but reaches for an understanding of how opinions change over time.
Jefferson, the great Virginia aristocrat, is as clear and eloquent as any of the founders in his defense of the common man, both his rights and his liberties. But of course Jefferson's love of liberty had its clear limits: he was a lifelong slaveowner and almost assuredly the father of one of his slave's children.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Richard Hofstadter wrote the best book of my Political Science education. I have read dozens and dozens of books on politics, economics, international affairs, and cultural... Read morePublished 12 days ago by Jonathan Heimer
Hofstadter is a very good writer. His perspective on the political situation rings true even today. A very worthwhile read.Published 7 months ago by J. Bridger
I had to buy it for a class but ended up loving it! It's very interesting and although it was a force read you can actually learn and enjoy it. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Jesse
Excellent review of our county's past from it's early beginning to the
Death of FDR in1945 and just before the end of WWII
Not gonna try for a scholarly review here. I was no scholar when I was weed-smoking undergrad in a 201 Am History class 30-odd years ago, and I'm still not. Read morePublished on March 19, 2014 by S. Mcdowall