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The Populist Vision Paperback – April 17, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


"[A] meticulously researched study...."--New York Times Book Review

"A highly original contribution to the scholarship on late nineteenth-century reform movements. Rarely has any historian given us such a comprehensive and detailed view of the Populists, in all their rural, urban, and variegated complexity of thought.... This is an admirable, sophisticated and highly informative book, one to savor, to reflect upon, and to look forward to the discussions it will surely provoke."--Ronald P. Formisano, Georgia Historical Quarterly

"Many who have written about Populism will find their oxen being gored by Postel. This is a good thing, for his is a book well worth arguing with. Postel makes a compelling case for reconsidering parts of the major narratives of Populism and he offers fresh insights into the emergence of modern agribusiness as part of industrial America in parallel with the expansion of the national state.... His accomplishment will encourage future students of this complex subject to explore afresh the larger skein of which his set of threads is a very important part."--Robert C. McMath, Reviews in American History

"It is rare that a book comes along with the power to redefine the parameters of a major historiographical debate.... This is the most important book on Populism in thirty years, and a brief review cannot hope to do it justice. Masterfully researched in an astonishingly broad array of primary and secondary sources, and written in a clear, compelling style, The Populist Vision propels its author into the first rank of American political historians."--Journal of American History

"[E]xcellent intellectual history of Populism.... The significance of Charles Postel's work lies in its national scope and its focus on the ideas and the writings of key leaders.... this well-written and deftly argued work.... an excellent book. This is the best intellectual history of Populism since the work of Norman Pollack. Postel's book will cause historians of the Gilded Age to rethink the Populist vision and blueprints for society. Scholars should read this stimulating, provocative, and exemplary study."--The Historian

"In his new book, "The Populist Vision," Charles Postel offers an original and riveting account of the Populist vision that jump-started 20th-century social reform movements and is still relevant to our contemporary American society."--Ruth Rosen,

"Here is a history as diverse, complex, and surprising as the Populists themselves. Sympathetic but clear-eyed, respectful but unromantic, Postel challenges some of the most entrenched misconceptions in all of American history."--Edward L. Ayers, University of Virginia

"Postel's revaluation of the Populists seeks to make the best parts of their vision relevant to a generation once again troubled by corporate greed and a growing economic chasm between rich and poor. His Populists were not behind, but ahead of their time. They still are."--R. Laurence Moore, Cornell University

"Broadly conceived, impressively researched, and imaginatively argued, this valuable study deserves a wide audience."--Peter H. Argersinger, author of The Limits of Agrarian Radicalism

"This is the most significant work on the 1880s-1890s Populist movement since Lawrence Goodwyn's Democratic Promise thirty years ago. Beginning from the premise that Populism was a modern movement, Postel does a wonderful job of revealing the unexpected unities underlying the movement's diverse strands."--Jeffrey Ostler, University of Oregon

"Charles Postel offers a fresh, wonderfully ambitious account of Populism in the 1890s, reassessing both the movement's intellectual emphases and its political contributions. Historians have long needed a thorough reconsideration of the Populists and their relationship to early twentieth-century reformers. In The Populist Vision, they will find new insights and perspectives."--Rebecca Edwards, author of New Spirits: Americans in the Gilded Age, 1865-1905

"Charles Postel has written a stern, and compelling, rebuke to scholars who see the Populists as America's greatest mass anti-modernists. Relentlessly--but always fairly--he constructs his case for the modern character of Populist thinking about economics and education, about race and even religion. Above all, Postel shows that the supposedly hayseed Populists were indeed thinkers. This is far and away the best intellectual history of American Populism ever written."-- Robert D. Johnston, author of The Radical Middle Class: Populist Democracy and the Question of Capitalism in Progressive Era Portland, Oregon

"A well researched, wel-written, thoughtful, and original account of the Populist movement.... An essential and significant contribution to the Populist canon."--Matthew Hild, Western Historical Quarterly

"A valuable contribution...with far reaching implications." --Big Muddy

"Charles Postel has written a comprehensive and richly detailed account of late-nineteenth-century American Populism. The Populist Vision is one of the most persuasive and compelling analyses of the Populist movement published to date." --Journal of Southern History

About the Author

Charles Postel is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at San Francisco State University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195384717
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195384710
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.7 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Think Twice on May 8, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Prior to reading this I read Lawrence Goodwyn’s “The Populist Moment.” I’m astonished at the praise Postel has received. He seems to be most interested in questioning interpretations of Populism that portray them as regressive fantasists, resisting a capitalist future as they clutch at agrarian communal traditions. Accordingly he launches the book with a characterization of them as modernizers and developers. Fair enough, and Goodwyn would agree. But I’m bollixed at the extent to which this intention somehow leads Postel to minimize the commercial, class-determined basis of the hardship the Populists faced. Most prominently, the crop lien system -- which Goodwyn begins his book with as a key determinate of the economic fortunes of Alliance members and thus a determinate of their crtical analysis and remedies -- Postel barely mentions in unfocused paragraphs 120 pages into the book. After this questionable rendering of the social environment of Populism, it is surprising when Postel finally discusses Goodwyn near the book’s end. There Postel questions the importance Goodwyn gave to Populism’s undermining by the “shadow movement” – in brief, a combination of silver monetarists and opportunistic politicians who were indifferent to the essentially greenback/fiat money analysis of the Populists and also bent on turning the “movement culture” of Populism into a tame electoral base. According to Postel, Goodwyn thereby “fails to take into account the external obstacles that the movement faced. Among other things, the Populists had to break the formidable grip in which the two established parties held the political system.” (p. 270)

This is an absurd, careless, and unscholarly reading of Goodwyn.
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By John E. Banks on January 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book presents of clear picture of the role of the Populists in American politics at the close of the 19th century. I particularly enjoyed the sections on Bryan, Debs, and those who brought the to the forefront of more popular leader as TR.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Hailin on February 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was stunning and informative to me, as it put the history of what we know of as "Populism" in a new light---especially in terms of how that term is used today. It's not an "easy" read, but all the facts and documentations of the movement made it a worthwhile struggle for me. I've already recommended this book to many of my friends, especially those who are currently involved in political activities.
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