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The Promise of American Life Paperback – July 12, 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Along with Tocqueville's Democracy in America, Croly's study is necessary reading for an understanding of political growth in the United States." —Trenton Times
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

COSIMO CLASSICS offers distinctive titles by the great authors and thinkers who have inspired, informed and engaged readers throughout the ages. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Qontro Classic Books (July 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003YHB6BS
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.8 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,208,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark Ledbetter on May 9, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The stars are not for agreement. In fact, H. D. Croly argues from the opposite pole of the Great American Debate as myself. The stars are because he does such a good job of it (other than the long-winded first chapter). Five stars for a deep and revealing understanding of American history, the American character, and individual American politicians - especially Lincoln. Minus a star for occasional windiness. Croly also got my attention by framing the debate exactly as I do, and then framing the entirety of American political history, like I do, in terms of the debate.

For example, from the get-go, Croly establishes the opposing visions of Hamilton and Jefferson as the fundamental philosophical split in America and traces the dispute up to the present. Of course, his present is a perfect century earlier than our own, but even now the game is still the same even as party names and ideological labels have changed with some regularity. Now we might name the split progressivism vs. libertarianism.

I also give Croly fairly high marks for maintaining a generosity of spirit and understanding for the "other side." Such generosity is unusual in the best of times, so even "fairly high" is fairly rare. His generosity doesn't quite extend to the principal figure representing the other side, though. His skillful demolition of Jefferson's personal qualities is merely skillful, not generous. In the case of Jefferson, anyway, Croly can't help seeing philosophical differences expressed through personality deficiencies.

Croly's excellent explication of the frontier culture of the "Western Democracy" would be worth the price of the book, if it had a price (free on Kindle, as of this writing).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a very important book for understanding the "Progressive Era" in American History. It was read by both Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and influenced their thinking and policies.
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A nice concise summary of political party evolution through the beginning of the 20th century with a sound rationale for progressive politics and limitations on the growth of trusts (corporate interests). Demonstrates how mainstream and inept current "Progressive" dialog sounds. It's also interesting to see how the mantle of conservative individual freedoms passes back and forth between political parties.
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Format: Paperback
Herbert Croly was a journalist and writer who wrote his most significant work just after the beginning of the twentieth century. He makes the case most simply: there have been two contending forces within liberalism fighting for the soul of the country from the very beginning. That is, there have been two distinct liberalisms. One was the Hamiltonian emphasis on the nation as a whole, as something transcendent over narrow interests. He called for a national purpose or interest to structure political dialogue. On the down side, the individual American might be forgotten in the process. The Jeffersonian view, on the other hand, valorized the individual and deemphasized a larger national purpose. Croly argued that both had serious flaws, but that the time was right to try to meld the two together for the good of the republic.

His contention was that we had to wed the national purpose orientation of Hamilton with the focus on ordinary people from Jefferson. His appeal was for "positive government," the use by government of various tools to advance the national interest and the welfare of the people. This was an early salvo on behalf of the Progressive movement. With the Great Depression and Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, this orientation became the dominant thrust of American politics for five decades.
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Considering that Teddy Roosevelt was the first to buy into the Croly line of thinking, followed by Wilson and FDR, it is little wonder we have become the entitlement, anti-business, anti-capitalist, pro-labor nation we are. Croly wrote this book at a time there was much debate as to which direction the country should take. This book is extremely well written. It is impressive how Croly was able to put his thoughts to paper so well. The book is a must read should you wish to gain insight on how America has changed since the Civil War. And from a conservative perspective, I must add, it's very scary.
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