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A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920 1st Edition

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195183658
ISBN-10: 0195183657
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Simply put, this is history at its best.... A truly remarkable effort from one of our nation's finest historians."--Publishers Weekly "McGerr...captures the defining ethos of the progressive movement."--New York Times "[McGerr's] ambitious meld of character, policy, and context should make his book a landmark in the field."--The Nation "The author is a master of his subject, and his book may prove to be the definitive text on the triumphs and inevitable downfall of the progressive movement."--Christian Science Monitor


About the Author


Michael McGerr is Professor of History and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University. He is the recipient of an NEH fellowship and several teaching awars, and speaks regularly on topics in American history, politics, and culture.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 395 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (July 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195183657
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195183658
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.9 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
Advertised as an overview of the Progressive movement, A Fierce Discontent is more an effort to explore the psychology and social history of the Progressives. McGerr's essential point is that the Progressive movement was a middle class effort to assert control in a world where economic and social change were disturbing the economic, social, and psychological equipoise of the American middle classes. In this view, Progressivism includes both the political reform movements generally associated with the movement but also closely related efforts to extend middle class values to other sectors of society. In McGerr's analysis, a spectrum of moral regeneration efforts like prohibition movements are part of this general trend. McGerr also argues that the Progressive desire to enforce social control was a wellspring of the increasing Jim Crow legislation of the period. In McGerr's analysis, the great foe of the Progressive movement was not its apparent traditional enemies but the emerging consumer oriented mass culture which he sees as ultimately draining the vitality of Progressive appeal.

McGerr's basic model is cogent but several aspects of his analysis and presentation are incomplete to the point of being misleading. The basic model is not particularly novel; the dualistic view of Progressivism as a middle class bid for reform and control is, I think, widely accepted. Despite the fact that this book is about one of the great political reform movements in American history, there is almost nothing about politics per se in this book. This obscures one of the key sources of the Progressive movement. The Progressives of whom McGerr writes were inspired in part by the feeling that their class was playing a diminishing role in American political life.
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Format: Paperback
Reviewer David Montgomery said it well: "I felt the author was most focused on and interested in the Progressive belief in transforming other people to conform to this middle class vision of society and he handles the issue very ably".

McGerr's title: "A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement" has a striking historical citation as a hook. It follows with a promise to give the reader an understanding of a highly positive movement in American history - one that we could use at a time when more and ore historians, political commentators and economists are referring to the nation as being in a "new gilded age". I had hopes, given the bold title, that the author would share keen and balanced insights on the leaders and key events that built the Progressive movement. The end of the Progressive movement is more clear cut, given World War I and the Presidency of Warren Harding. He's now remembered perhaps most for the Teapot Dome scandal, and the word "bloviate". For those not familiar with it, Harding coined the term as referring to the act of speaking in a way so as to hold audience attention while really saying nothing.

Unfortunately the book has a much narrower focus, i.e. it is largely concerned with attempts to change the peoples' character or lives. Examples include anti-divorce, temperance movements, curbing the excesses of industrial magnates, and efforts to control prostitution. Even those subjects are dealt with in a rather personal and discursive way, lacking names, specific events, and concise characterizations.

I have to say that at a time like we have faced in the past couple of decades it would be especially timely to shed light on how U.S.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. C. Clack on March 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
In McGerr's view, progressivism was a broad based Victorian middle class movement dedicated to extending its way of life - sober, abstemious, moderate, associative, protective, hard-working, modern, consumerist if guiltily so - both upward to a profligate and individualist capitalist elite and downward to an unruly and dissipated working class.

Its work was only partially successful - antitrust, regulation, healthcare, communal associations - and ultimately done in by its own contradictions. Progressives, moderates by temperate and nature, could not embrace the extremism inherent in its boldest initiatives. This became apparent in the bold initiatives undertaken by the Wilson administration for World War I, greatly extending government reach in private and commercial affairs.

This is a rich and nuanced interpretation of the era. Jaklak sez check it out.
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By Amazon Customer on December 4, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very interesting account or this seminal movement in in American History.
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By Janette on February 27, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book and quality :)
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By Deborah D Adams on September 30, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Robert L. Hampel on February 15, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In graduate school in the early 1970s I read several articles skeptical of progressivism as a valid description on the early 20th century. Wish I had this book then! The first chapter alone--on the extremes of wealth and poverty--is worth the price of the entire book. A must read! Very useful for teachers in search of anecdotes to spice lectures and discussions
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