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The Age of Reform Mass Market Paperback – February 12, 1960

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Editorial Reviews


"Professor Hofstadter has written a superb book ... The Age of Reform entitles Hofstadter to rank with C. Vann Woodward as a master of creative synthesis, as an interpreter of the past who can add to cold data an emphatic insight that transforms history from a book of the dead into a chronicle of life."-- American Political Science Review

From the Inside Flap

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.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 12, 1960)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394700953
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394700953
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.8 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Tyler Smith on May 1, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It's not every book that can change one's thinking about a political movement and a period in history, but Hofstadter's book did just that for me when I first read it many years ago. It's an incisive critique of the populist and progressive movements that sprang up in the last quarter of the 19th century and exerted strong influence on American politics until the onset of World War I. But Hofstadter's great achievement is that he sets both these movements in historical perspective, showing us that no movement flowers without roots.
Hofstadter is at his best in revealing that the populist movement played -- and preyed -- on the longing of Americans for a pastoral, agrarian past that was ironically little more than myth by the end of Reconstruction. In an increasingly industrial, urban America, the populists were able to set themselves up as downtrodden victims of various villians, chief among them the railroads and the banks.
Yet Hofstadter convincingly argues that the farmers of the West were eager to become businessmen in the boom years following the Civil War, when land and capital were cheap. It was not until they were battered by the economic slumps that are an inevitable part of a market economy that the agrarian movement began demanding government intervention to reign in capital and portraying agriculture as especially worthy of special attention.
The populist's appeal to the little man, dwarfed by powers beyond his control, played well in some segments of the U.S., but Hofstadter portrays a darker side of populism, exposing its anti-foreign and anti-Semitic leanings. Reading about the populist's railings against foreigners and their dark hints of conspiracy by vast economic and political powers, I heard echoes of the speeches of Pat Buchanan.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By John Lee on February 23, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Hofstadter ranks with Bancroft, Beard, and Tuckman as one of the great scholars of American history. AGE OF REFORM definitely shows why; his scholarly, permeating style impresses his words into your mind, changing both your scope and sense of American history. In this book, he tracks various reformist groups that shaped America, starting with the Populists of the late 19th century and ending with the New Deal reforms of FDR.
Hofstadter's thoughts on the early 20th century Progressives and New Dealers conform with the writings of most other historians. It is Hofstadter's section on the Populists that has always generated the most controversy, both in the past and still today. In the first third of the book, Hofstadter writes of the American "agrarian myth" and how the Populist farmers sought the "lost agrarian ideals" of Jefferson and Jackson. He emphasizes how the Populists were basically reactionary whiners who impetuously thought themselves deserving of some special privelage, simply because they were farmers, the supposed "All-American" profession. Hofstadter goes further by describing the Populists as jingoistic proto-facists. By use of effective documentation, he shows this "dark side" of Populism, with its demagogic rants against politicians, urbanites, Britons, Jews, and immigrants.
Although Hofstadter indeed is very effective in his writing and documentation, he fails in the aspect of fair historical analysis. When one reads AGE OF REFORM, one should always remember the Populists from a broader perspective than Hofstadter's biased urban views.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 5, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Richard Hosstadter was one of our most profound social commentators and it will be a long while before his equal comes along. In this book he highlights the rather surprising fact that Conservatives were the first to back the Progressive idea that replaced Populism. The Progressive mentality, with roots in the Protestant ethic felt the individual was responsible for improvement of "everything." It was an idea congenial to Teddy Roosevelt, who took it and ran with it, and it reached its culmination in Woodrow Wilson. As Hofstadter shows, Wilson led us into WWI with the idea that it was our responsibility to save civilization, rather than our self interested need to survive intact ourselves in a congenial economic milieu which would not have been likely if the Central Powers had won the war. The devastation and human wreckage wrought by the war brought home to Americans what they mistakenly considered the price of idealism (rather than the price of survival) and turned them toward a reaction that killed Progressivism. One result was the Flapper Era, reaction characteristic of general Eurphoria, undoubtedly sustained by prosperity. Hofstadter makes a remarkable case that explains how we got Prohibition and that, remarkably, it was tolerated by that era, He traces its development to a strange conjunction between a Progressive holdover, reaction against city loose morals and nativism. (Perhaps true, at least he makes a good case for the develpment of what is otherwise an inexplicable contradiction.Read more ›
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