What is Progressivism?

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Everything Progressive (this web site) covers nearly the entire gamut of human concerns from a Humanistic/ Progressive perspective.

An overview of the contents of the site may be found at the link provided above.

More Concerning Progressivism

The interested reader will find more pertaining to Progressivism in the links throughout this article and those at the bottom of this page.

What is Progressivism?

Progressivism in Brief

Progressivism is a political philosophy that takes as its objective the greatest political and economic good of the greatest number (sometimes called the common good).  It is, therefore, a form of liberal populism.  Progressives do not seek change merely for the sake of change, but rather insofar as the institutions and practices of a society depart from this objective and hence require reform.  Progressivism thus stands in sharpest contrast to economic elitism and political authoritarianism.

Scope of this Discussion

The reader will find here a high level discussion of Progressivism that addresses concisely all of the major topics relevant to this subject, except for those forms of progressivism found outside of the United States, for reasons described below.  An in-depth exposition of each of the main topics closely related to Progressivism may be found at linked pages, which are cited throughout and at the end of this entry. 

Readers are advised that the material that appears here was written entirely by Progressives, and hence in a Progressive perspective, and that much of the subject matter is inherently controversial.


Disambiguation: Progressivism vs. progressivism

". . . at bottom progressivism had been as exclusively national a movement as the United States ever knew.  It sprang directly from American problems and went about solving them with only an infrequent glance beyond the nation's borders."

—Eric F. Goldman
Rendezvous With Destiny

Progressivism was initially a political movement, rather than a party, that began to acquire its most characteristic features at the end of the 19th century in the United States.  Probably the most characteristic feature of all was revolt against politics and economics that were dominated by corrupt politicians linked to business interests, most notably railway companies and trusts.  This central feature remains little changed today, except that corrupt banking and financial practices have become of greater immediate concern; and as a majority of large corporations are headquartered in the US, and actively seek and exercise political influence to this day, the term remains most distinctively used with reference to American politics.

However, the term has also been used in, for example, the UK by groups opposed to Labour administrations that wished to avoid both liberal and conservative labels.  Used in this context, the term has an entirely different meaning than it has in the US.  The meaning of the term is also different as used in the rest of the world.  Therefore, neither its use in the context of UK politics, nor in the context of more global politics, will be further discussed here.  As used in these other contexts, progressivism requires separate discussion, as the European term is essentially a homonym of Progressivism.

The Definition of Progressivism

Progressivism may be defined briefly as the core principles and beliefs of Progressives.

However, this definition begs the key question, since it says nothing concerning these core beliefs.

It would be better, then, to define Progressivism as the specifically American development of liberal populism that seeks social and economic justice above all else, most specifically with reference to the obstacles posed to social and economic justice by some large corporations and banks.  Though Progressives strongly support civil liberties, the "progress" in Progressivism lies, most fundamentally, with ensuring, as the American pledge to the flag puts it, "justice for all".  Because of this core concern, Progressives have advocated governance "of the people, by the people, for the people", the phrase "the people" here standing in sharpest contrast to governance by the corporation, or rather its principle owners and beneficiaries.

This definition is, however, controversial and very rarely offered, probably because some Democratic politicians who wish to call themselves Progressives obtain much of their campaign financing from large corporations and also because of the pervasive influence of large corporations more generally.

For the complete entry concerning the definition of Progressivism, click here.

A Brief History of American Progressivism

". . .the progressive. . . to the conservative: 'Your philosophy, economics, politics, anthropology, everything you call Truth, is a rationalization of your economic interests.'

—Eric F. Goldman
Rendezvous With Destiny

There have been five largely independent progressive movements in the US over the course of its relatively brief history.

The modern era in America begins in the years of enormous social upheaval and corruption immediately following the Civil War. In itself, the war represented a victory for northern business interests. And in Ulysses Grant the US was soon saddled with a president backed by these same selfish business interests.

To the disgust of many ordinary Americans, scandal after scandal broke over the Grant administration. As well, the administration of many of the major cities was in the hands of ultracorrupt political machines, such as that of "Boss" Tweed in New York City.

The first stirrings of Progressivism emerged during this era, embodied in reformers such as Samuel Tilden of New York, who was instrumental in the prosecution of Tweed, and Carl Schurz, a reformist Senator from Missouri. There was also much grass root organizing during this period, which saw the establishment of labor unions.

However, Progressives became politically dominant nationally for the first time in 1912, though they weren't always well represented by candidates who ran as progressives, particularly "progressive" presidents. Theodore Roosevelt, who was somewhat Progressive, but who also had strong business sympathies, was denied the nomination of the Republican party, and so campaigned as the "Bull Moose" (Progressive Republican) party candidate.

The second Progressive movement got underway in 1924. This time the key leadership role was fulfilled by Robert M. La Follette (a more genuinely Progressive Republican). La Follette campaigned for such things as direct elections in primaries, fairer taxation, conservation of natural resources, control of lobbyists, and banking reform.

The third Progressive movement was initiated in 1947 by former Vice President Henry A. Wallace. Many progressives were uncomfortable with his religiosity, but were admirers of his call for a sort of global "New Deal".

The fourth Progressive movement was associated with the Green Party and the Nader presidential candidacy.

What is, in effect, a fifth Progressive movement was initiated by the presidential candidacies of Bernie Sanders.

For the complete entry concerning the history of American Progressivism, click here.

Progressive Reforms

During the Progressive Era (1900 to 1914, or perhaps to 1920), Progressives addressed the problems caused by industrialization, urbanization, and, above all, corporate corruption.  The Progressives of the era, who were by and large middle-class urbanites, believed that the best way to achieve these reforms was by greater governmental intervention.  (Businessmen, chafing at the idea of regulation, had been advocates of "laissez-faire" or the non-involvement of government, and were social Darwinists, who promoted Horatio Alger success stories.)  Progressive reforms centered on making government more of an affair "of the people".  The Seventeenth Amendment ensured that citizens would elect senators (they had previously been selected by state legislatures).  Other reforms established the direct primary (which allowed electors to determine for themselves who the representatives of their party would be), and the initiative and referendum, which allowed voters to initiate reforms directly, without the need to resort to politicians.  Progressives also established a range of consumer protections, resulting in enormously safer foods and products.  Progressive laborers succeeded in establishing an 8 hour workday and the provision of worker's compensation for those injured on the job, as well as far safer working conditions. 

Other Progressives worked for the professional management of cities (they were dismayed with self-serving political "bosses" and their "machines"), and were advocates of the commission form of city government).  Still other reforms brought an end to child labor, and the Nineteenth Amendment resulted in women being able to vote in the US for the first time.  Attendance at free public schools became compulsory.

For more concerning Progressive reforms, click here.

Educational Progressivism

The Progressive education movement originally began in Europe as a reaction to what was conceived as the narrowness and formalism of a traditional education, which was thought to focus too narrowly on intellectual development alone.  By contrast, 18th and 19th century Progressives wanted to expand the scope of education to include emotional and physical development as well.  In addition to such novel educational ends, a further emphasis of Progressive education derived from a theory concerning the best means of education: it was thought desirable for the student to become an active participant in his or her own education, and that learning by doing was therefore a key approach.  In the 20th century, American philosopher John Dewey added to this mix of concerns the more cental objective of preparing the student for participation in a democratic system of governance, which demands the capacity for critical thinking. 

This more core Progressive concern was further developed in the late 20th century by American philosopher Mortimer Adler, who founded Paideia schools.

For more concerning educational Progressivism, click here.

Some Prominent Progressives

One way to get a sense of what Progressivism is about is to examine the lives and achievements of some eminent Progressives.  The following sample provides thumbnail sketches, with links to more complete biographies.


Progressives From the American Revolution to the End of the 19th Century


Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)

Franklin was a Deist, a renaissance man, a journalist, a diplomat, a scientist and an advocate of government-issued currency. 

(The money we use today is created at will by privately owned banks collectively but misleadingly known as "The Fed", and loaned at interest to the federal government — which used to, and still could, issue its own debt-free currency.)

Thomas Paine (1737 - 1809)

Another Deist, Paine was also an inventor and author, and penned "Common Sense", a patriotic tract that led, in some ways, to the Declaration of Independence.  He also provided material aid to the Revolutionary troops, supplying them with money, clothing and ammunition.  It was Paine who suggested the name "United States of America" for the new country.

Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

Jefferson was also a Deist, a legal and historical scholar, and renaissance man.   He was the author of the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the United States, and the third president (after George Washington and John Adams).  Jefferson was another advocate of government-issued currency.

Andrew Jackson (1767 - 1845)

Jackson was the seventh president of the United States.  While he cannot be considered a Progressive in many respects, he did take a strong stand against allowing private banks to issue US currency for private gain at public cost.  He also called for the abolition of the Electoral College.

Henry C. Carey (1793 - 1879)

Carey's father Mathew was a printer and publisher who had been tutored by Benjamin Franklin; Henry became the first eminent American economist and sociologist, and was an opponent of "laissez-faire" economics (the school of thought arguably responsible for the current global economic debacle).

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

Emerson was an ordained Unitarian minister, and the son of a Unitarian minister who was a great friend of the arts.  An inspiring and insightful essayist, Emerson remains a highly readable exemplar of rational religion.

Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865)

Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States.  He brought about the emancipation of American slaves, and was an advocate of government "of the people, by the people, for the people", a reasonably good short definition of Progressivism.  Lincoln also advocated the issuance of US currency by the government rather than by private banks.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 - 1902)

Stanton was an abolitionist and a leader in the American women's rights movement.  She articulated the first demand for woman suffrage in the United States in 1848.

Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

Steamboat pilot, journalist, and lecturer, Twain was an opponent of imperialism and economic elitism, the latter view finding expression in his satire "The Gilded Age".  Twain was also a rationalist in religion, and authored such funny but scathing works as "Letters From Earth".

Henry George (1839 - 1897)

George was a seaman and autodidact economist whose Progress and Poverty did much to demolish prevailing conservative economic ideas.  In the sort of economic situation that existed in the United States in the 1870s, democracy as conservatives defined it was "the liberty to compete for employment at starvation wages," said George.

Jacob Coxey (1854 - 1951)

Coxey was a businessman, politician, and organizer who strongly advocated for greenbacks (money issued by the US government, instead of by private banks).  Though not notably successful as a politican, many of his ideas were absorbed into the policies of Roosevelt's New Deal.

Eugene V. Debs (1855 - 1926)

Debs was a political activist and union leader who passionately sought social justice for working Americans at tremendous risk to himself.  He was a candidate for President several times, and led a strike against the Great Northern Railway.

Booker T. Washington (1856 - 1915)

Born a slave, Washington had an enormous hunger for education, and eventually became an educator himself, as well as the most influential black man of his time.  Something of an "accommodationist" and advocate of a "separate but equal" approach in public life, Washington was nevertheless an antisegregationist at heart.

William Jennings Bryan (1860 - 1925)

Bryan was the Populist candidate for President in 1896, 1900 and 1908.  A gifted orator, Bryan was also a journalist, and served as a House representative.  He advocated for US currency taken off of the gold standard favored by the corrupt J. P. Morgan/John D. Rockefeller banking cartel (which was itself backed by corrupt British banking interests).  However, Mark Hanna, a wealthy industrialist, poured his own money and that of wealthy corporations into the campaign of William McKinley, outspending Bryan's campaign by 20 to 1.

Jane Addams (1860 - 1935)

Addams might be called the mother of American social work (though she didn't think of herself that way).  She founded Hull House in Chicago, an organization which included a night school for adults, a public kitchen, an art gallery, a library, and a gymnasium, among other facilities.  She was also a peace activist, receiving the Nobel peace prize for her work in that arena, and sought to end child labor.


20th Century Progressives

Robert LaFollette (1855 - 1925)

La Follette was a Congressman and Governor of Wisconsin, as well as candidate for President.  He was one of the chief leaders of opposition to the domination of the US government by corporations.

Clarence Darrow (1857 - 1938)

Darrow was an labor lawyer, a staunch defender of civil liberties, and an agnostic who defended John T. Scopes in the so-called "Monkey" trial of 1925, in which the teaching of evolution theory in the schools of Tennessee was attacked.

Ida Tarbell (1857 - 1944)

Ida Tarbell was the first great American investigative journalist of her gender.  Her most important and best known work was "The History of the Standard Oil Company" which brought to light the illegal means employed by John D. Rockefeller to monopolize the oil industry, and thereby amass his fortune.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919)

Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States.  He is chiefly known for expanding the powers of the federal government so as to further the common good in conflicts between big business and labor.  He was, nevertheless, deeply divided ideologically, and failed to aggressively pursue the public interest, and at the same time promoted imperialistic policies.

W. E. B. Du Bois (1868 - 1963)

Du Bois was a civil rights activist and author, and a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the first and largest American civil rights organization.  He is credited with doing much to improve interracial relations in the US.

Theodore Dreiser (1871 - 1945)

Among the greatest American novelists, Dreiser developed an insightful, realistic literary style which he deployed to powerful and controversial effect in all of his work.  In his Cowperwood trilogy he probed the ruthlessness, greed, arrogance, and selfishness of an American businessman, while his novel "The Genius" perhaps his single best, explores the psychology of genius.

Upton Sinclair (1878 - 1968)

A Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Sinclair's book "The Jungle" (1906) detailed the revolting and unsanitary practices that took place in the Chicago meat-packing industry.  His novel led to meat inspection legislation and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.

Jeanette Rankin (1880 - 1973)

Rankin was a social worker, a biologist, and the first woman elected to the House of Representatives.  She was a strong and principled opponent of US entry into the world wars in the face of nearly universal "patriotic" hysteria in the press.   In 1918 and 1919 she introduced legislation to provide state and federal funds for visiting nurse programs and health clinics with a view to reducing infant mortality.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 - 1945)

Roosevelt was the 32nd president of the United States, and, in a Progressive perspective, one of the "big three" (the others being Jefferson and Lincoln).  He expanded the power of the federal government through programs and reforms known collectively as the "New Deal", which pulled America through the economic collapse of 1929 (in nature very similar to the Great Recession of 2008).

Brand Blanshard (1892 - 1987)

John Dewey's philosophy of "Pragmatism" did much to convince Americans of the truth of moral relativism.  Blanshard, who studied with Dewey, saw no merit in relativism of any sort, and set forward the definitive critique of that philosophy in "Reason and Analysis".  He also exhaustively critiqued moral relativism in "Reason and Goodness", a work which provides a vastly superior philosophical foundation for Progressivism.

William O. Douglas (1898 - 1980)

True liberty never had a better friend than Supreme Court Justice Douglas, a staunch defender of civil liberties.  In addition, he architected the reorganization of the US stock exchange, instituting protections for small investors, and initiated government regulation of the sale of securities. 

Corliss Lamont (1902 - 1995)

Lamont was the son of the chairman of the J. P. Morgan investment bank, one of the two principal banks that own the so-called "Federal Reserve Bank", and a pillar of the American plutocracy.  However, he went on to become a leading spokesman for humanism and for a just economics.

Martin Luther King (1929 - 1968)

King was an ordained Baptist minister who was a key leader of the US civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his unsolved murder in 1968.    He was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace in 1964 for his leadership and for his advocacy of nonviolent tactics.  His work was pivotal for ending the segregation of black Americans.

Paul Wellstone (1944 - 2002)

A professor of political science, community organizer, and US Senator from Minnesota.  At the time of his death (under highly suspicious circumstances), he was nearly the only Progressive serving in the Senate.   He was a strong advocate for affordable health care, publicly-funded day care centers, and improved public education.


Some Contemporary Progressives

Howard Zinn (1922 - 2010)

Zinn was an historian and the author of the acclaimed "A People's History of the United States", which provides an account of US history from the standpoint of its significance for working people.  An Air Force bombardier in World War II, the experience left him with a strong opposition to war.

Noam Chomsky (1928 - )

Chomsky is a professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been an outspoken critic of US foreign policy (which, he maintains, has largely served the economic interests of wealthy individuals), and of the mass media (which he views as a propaganda instrument for the wealthy).

Ralph Nader (1934 - )

Nader is an attorney, eloquent speaker, and passionate advocate of genuine democracy for America.  He has also worked to protect Americans from large corporations, pressuring the automobile industry, for example, to install seatbelts and make use of stronger windshields.  His activities led to National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (1966).   A meeting with Nader during his 2000 presidential campaign led, indirectly, to the establishment of our predecessor website, Progressive Living.

William Greider (?)

Greider was the national affairs correspondent for "The Nation", a leading Progressive weekly magazine.  Greider's special area of expertise is economics.  He is the author of "Secrets of the Temple", which lays bare the political involvements of the "Federal Reserve Bank" — which isn't federal, doesn't reserve anything, and strictly speaking isn't a bank.

Gar Alperovitz (1936 - )

Alperovitz is the author of "Making a Place for Community" and "America Beyond Capitalism" each of which contains a wealth of ideas for turning around our economy in order to make it work for ordinary Americans.  He is the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland.

David Korten (1937 - )

Korten is an author whose special expertise is globalization, which at bottom is the attempt to supplant national governments, including that of America, with an unelected corporate tribunal operating in the economic interest of the hyperwealthy.  His many books include "When Corporations Rule the World", and "The Post-Corporate World".  

Herman Daly (1938 - )

Daly is an American economist and a professor at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.  He was among the first major economists to point out that what is meant by "economic growth" is actually toxic both to our ecology and to the ideals of democracy.  His books include "Steady-State Economics", "For the Common Good", and "Beyond Growth".

Kevin Phillips (1940 - )

A series of insightful books have now appeared from Phillips that cumulatively constitute a devastating, and indeed fatal indictment of the "financialization" of the American economy (a process which was largely behind the Great Recession of 2008).  His "Bad Money" probes the 2008 meltdown in enlightening depth.  He is a journalist who specializes in the intersection of economics with politics.

Bernie Sanders (1941 - )

Sanders is a Senator from Vermont who is among a small handful of American politicians who actually work for the economic good of working Americans.  He is, in addition, one of the few who actuallly believes in the liberty of American citizens.  (He proposed an amendment limiting "Patriot Act" provisions allowing the government to obtain individuals' libarary and book-buying records — which ultimately died in negotiations with the Senate.)

Peter Phillips (?)

"Project Censored" is an annual compendium of newsstories considered too hot—or too revealing— to handle by the corporate press.  This effort was headed up by Phillips, who is a professor of sociology at Sonoma State University.

Thom Hartman (1951 - )

"The Thom Hartman Program" is a nationally syndicated radio show that reaches about 2 million listeners a week, and is his chief claim to fame, as it is the highest rated of the Progressive radio shows.    Hartman's has proven to be exceptionally infuential in Progressive circles, owing largely to a series of brilliant books.

Kim Stanley Robinson (1952 - )

Robinson is a science fiction author.  Virtually all of his novels are thought-provoking and intensely readable, but he hit his stride in a series of novels examining the conjunction of politics with economics and science.  His "Science in the Capitol" triology may well rank as the most important work of SF ever written; and, indeed, with its publication he may have become the most important writer alive, in or out of the SF genre.

Amy Goodman (1957 - )

Broadcast journalist Amy Goodman is the heart and soul of Pacifica Radio's radio and television show "Democracy Now!".  Goodman's show is a colossal embarrassment to the corporate broadcast media, managing on a shoestring budget to cover the news from the perspective of the economic interests of working Americans while FOX, ABC, and the rest of the corporate media can be counted on not to.

Marjorie Kelly (?)

Kelly is the co-founder of "Business Ethics", a publication concerned with conducting business in a socially responsible fashion. Observering the profound difficulty that businesses were having in conducting themselves ethically, she researched her book "The Divine Right of Capital", which lays bare the morally questionable DNA of the modern corporation, and hence of corporate capitalism itself.

Ellen Brown (?)

Brown's book "The Web of Debt" exposes the deepest, darkest abcesses of contemporary corporate capitalism, which have at their heart the profoundly anti-democratic practices of central banks and so-called "fractional reserve" banking.  This goes to make "WoD" the most explosive and revealing reading in decades.

Barack Obama (1961 - )  

Throughout his presidency, Obama rarely acted as a Progressive, though his rhetoric reflected awareness of progressive concerns.  For this reason many have come to think of him as a "corporate democrat". He was ushered into Washington politics by Vernon Jordan, a Bilderberger. He appointed economic advisors who were intimately involved in the events leading up to the Great Recession; his vice-President (Biden) was chosen by a Bilderberger; he failed to follow up on investigation of the criminal misconduct of the Bush administration, in effect creating two tiers of justice — one for the powerful, and one for everyone else; his Department of Justice offered up an extra-constitutional and specious theory of "sovereign immunity" to defend the flagrantly illegal wiretapping of Americans; and he missed the opportunity of a generation to push for genuine reforms of corrupt banking and financial institutions, instead taking actions that benefit many of those most responsible for the corruption.  His efforts to end wars that demanded immediate cessation were weak at best. Finally, he did nothing to correct the assaults on civil liberties ushered in the with "Patriot" Act.  In short, taken collectively, his policy positions were far to the right of Republican president Dwight Eisenhower.  Those who have claimed that Obama is a "socialist" can have no idea whatsoever what that term means, and have failed completely to grasp the ideology actually reflected in his actions as President — or else have intentionally promulgated grossly misleading characterizations.  There can be no doubt that he is neither a Liberal or a Progressive.    

Progressive Media

All of the American broadcast media, and most of the print media as well, are owned and administrated primarily by wealthy individuals. Direct ties to the biggest of big businesses are almost unbelievably extensive (see our analysis here), and these ties seriously bias and compromise news coverage, particularly coverage of economic issues. Moreover, the media empires are, first and foremost, profit-making corporations that conduct themselves like other corporations when it comes to corrupting American politics. That is, the parent corporations of many make so-called "campaign contributions" (bribes) and also act against the public interest in numerous other ways. As big winners in the corruption game, they show no signs of serious interest in political reform. (As large corporations themselves, the mass media want the same preferential treatment, and have the same desire to grow without bounds, as all other corporations.)

Allegations of political bias in the media are common, although there is considerable controversy concerning the nature of this bias. However, neither liberals or conservatives are pleased. Conservatives allege that the media exhibit a liberal bias. On the other hand, liberals allege that the media exhibit a pro-corporate, plutocratic bias. However, we believe such charges rely on a faulty and simplistic analysis of the American political and economic spectrum (for a better understanding of that spectrum, see the linked diagram). The truth is that the apparent liberalism of some of the mass media is primarily cultural, and almost never economic. In effect, and like most other American institutions, the mass media advance the economic interests of the wealthy few at the cost of the interests, and values, of the majority; and the self-indulgent, empire-building interests of the wealthy few are not those of either liberals or cultural conservatives.

Genuinely mainstream media, which is to say Progressive media, may be found at this link.

For more concerning Progressive media, click here.

Progressive Economics

Is there such a thing as a distinctively Progressive economics? We believe so — just as there is also a distinctively corporate economics.

For example, in the lens of corporate economics, people are usually just one more resource to be exploited. Labor is regarded as being just one more expense, its cost to be minimized to the maximum extent possible, or, better yet, eliminated outright by AI and robotics. In a Progressive perspective, meaningful work is among the prerequisites of a good life. Progressives believe that most of the value that derives from the work of the individual should benefit that individual, not "shareholders," and not CEOs (who are no more, and no less, than one more employee). In the lens of corporate economics, the environment is simply a source of resources to be exploited, and environmental costs to be shirked. In a Progressive perspective, the environment is finite, the source of some of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences a human being can have, and a resource to be protected for the generations yet to come. In a corporate perspective, communities count for nothing, and business siting is purely a matter of finding the lowest possible costs and greatest opportunity to pollute. In a Progressive perspective, communities have intrinsic human value, and corporations who derive their very lifeblood from them also have obligations toward them. In a corporatist perspective, the corporation has no responsibility to community of any kind (and, indeed, no purpose of any kind whatsoever, other than the generation of profit for shareholders and corporate officers), and therefore, if costs can be offloaded to the community, they should be.

This kind of dichotomy can be explored at great length, but the key point to observe is this: Progressive economics places people, and the values they try to live by, at the very center of economic concerns, just as Progressive politics places people, and the values they try to live by, at the very center of the political process. By contrast, in the view of Progressives, corporatism places people and the values they try to live by at the very periphery of every society in which it appears. People and their values are regarded as a nuisance or outright impediment to ever greater profits for a tiny minority. We see this most starkly in the doctrines of those who promote globalization: the IMF has decreed that civil society in every country must drastically cut or eliminate social safety nets, privatize essential governmental functions so corporations can turn them into profit-making opportunities, and abandon control of their own economies and resources for the exploitation of transnational corporations and banks.

For more concerning Progressive economics, click here.

Progressivism and the US Class War

Economic elites emerge in every society and invariably seek to promote their own interests, all too often against those of taxpayers, consumers, employees, citizens, and parents. By definition, economic elites enjoy greater wealth, and therefore also greater influence, than the ordinary citizen, and they typically attempt to exploit these advantages politically, using them as leverage to obtain still greater wealth and influence. And since the desire for wealth and power is rarely satisfied, there tend to be recurring cycles of concentrated political and economic power, together with the corruption that always attends these. One such cycle of corruption was seen in the United States around the turn of the 20th century, culminating in the economic crash of 1929. In the first decades of the 21st century, the US entered the Great Recession of 2008 and the current economic and environmental crisis.

For more concerning Progressivism and the US class war, click here.

Further Reading

For further details concerning Progressivism, we recommend "The World of Hope: Progressives and the Struggle for an Ethical Public Life", by David B. Danbom. This study emphasizes the connections among Progressivism, core American values, and the difficulties confronting attempts to bring those values to bear on politics in the face of a recalcitrant and corrupting business sector.

Also highly valuable is Eric Goldstein's "Rendezvous With Destiny", which provides an in-depth account of the Progressive movement from its inception, together with some trenchant and still-relevant criticism.


(See also: class warfare, democracy, populism, plutocracy, oligarchy, globalization, fascism, and the links below.)

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