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The Muckrakers had no real role in American Imperialism; in fact they most likely would oppose it. However, they played an important role in the Progressive movement by bringing attention to corruption and social ills which they believed had been hidden from the public for too long.
The entire Progressive movement worked to promote honesty in business and government, greater social justice and democracy, regulation of businesses where necessary, and a commitment to public service. The Muckrakers (so named by Theodore Roosevelt) pointed out many of the problems that existed within American society. For instance:
- Ida Mae Tarbell wrote History of the Standard Oil Company, which she intended to be an expose of the corrupt practices of that company and its founder, John D. Rockefeller.
- Lincoln Steffens wrote about political corruption in municipal government in Shame of the Cities.
- Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle which he intended to become a socialist manifesto; but more persuasively pointed out deplorable conditions in meat packing plants. His book led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act, both of which promoted the Progressive agenda.
Although the Muckrakers pointed out the problems of society; they seldom offered solutions. However, their efforts in bringing attention to these problems encouraged others to seek change and thereby help society "progress."
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