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The Populist Vision Paperback – April 17, 2009
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"[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....[T]his well-written and deftly argued work....[A]n 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, truthdig.com
"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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This is an absurd, careless, and unscholarly reading of Goodwyn. Goodwyn spends many pages discussing the difficulties the Populists faced dealing with the deformed politics of post-Civil War sectionalism, with its ready potential to dumb down the unavoidably complicated discussions of Populist monetary policy with bloody shirt waving and accusations of treason. His portrayal of this grip runs a gamut of accounts from outright voter fraud and assassination to describing the psychological strain experienced by Populists as they departed the “party of their fathers.” He pays particular attention to the way in which the anti-Populist electoral machine assembled by Mark Hanna anticipated the massive political advertising of the 20th century and succeeded in transplanting bloody shirt Civil War thematics into a timeless “patriotism.” Overall, Goodwyn makes it clear that the strong opposition to Populism by local and national commercial interests, particularly the Eastern banking establishment, took on both economic and political forms. It was this multi-pronged opposition that placed Populism under such severe pressure that the shadow movement’s metallist compromise, offering an alliance with the Democratic party, could gain enough traction to create internal dissension over Populism’s more comprehensive Omaha principles and seriously weaken the movement. So, please read Goodwyn. His analysis is far more nuanced than Postel is apparently capable of appreciating, and which the subject itself certainly deserves.
Midwest Independent Research, educational websites. US history, mwir-ushistory.blogspot. There is a book list.