The Progressive Movement

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History 104 The initial progressive movement arose as an alternative to the conservative response to the vast changes brought by the industrial revolution. Contemporary progressives continue to embrace concepts such as environmentalism and social justice. Social progressivism, which states that societal practices ought to be adjusted as society evolves, form the ideological basis for many American progressives. Progressives like Robert La Follette argued that the average person should have more control over their government. Many progressives, such as George M. Forbes—president of Rochester’s Board of Education—hoped to make government in the U.S. more responsive to the direct voice of the American people. Forbes stated that progressives were now intensely occupied in forging the tools of democracy, the direct primary, the initiative, the referendum, the recall, the short ballot, commission government. But in our enthusiasm we do not seem to be aware that these tools will be worthless unless they are used by those who are aflame with the sense of brotherhood. The idea of the social centers movement is to establish in each community an institution having a direct and vital relation to the welfare of the neighborhood, ward, or district, and also to the city as a whole. Many progressives such as Louis Brandeis hoped to make American governments better able to serve the people’s needs by making governmental operations and services more efficient and rational. Rather than making legal arguments against ten hour workdays for women, he used “scientific principles: and “data produced by social scientists documenting the high costs of long working hours for both individual society.” Reforms included professional administrators, centralization of decision-making process, and movements to eliminate governmental corruption. The progressives’ quest for efficiency was sometimes at odds with the progressives’ quest for democracy. Taking power out of the hands of elected...
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