Thursday, November 15, 2012

On Early Progressivism in America


On Early Progressivism in America: Progressivism, as a political ideology which developed at the turn of the twentieth century, contained both liberal and conservative elements. Aside from its formal connection to Theodore Roosevelt and the short-lived Progressive Party in the 1912 presidential election, progressivism can be defined as a political ideology of reform that intended to make American society more economically and politically fair. At times, however, there were a variety of unintended consequences which emanated from certain progressive reforms. For example, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol with the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920 gave rise to a massive black market controlled by mafiosos like Enoch Johnson and Al Capone. Such a reform, while deemed progressive at the time, was quite regressive in hindsight, as it instigated a high degree of violence. This regressive instinct was also present in the 1916 legislation that created the National Park Service (NPS), which like other environmental initiatives, was partly driven by an underlying elitism. What good were the aesthetics of NPS conservation lands for the urban working classes and underprivileged racial minorities who had limited opportunities to enjoy them?

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