I know the main ideas of the topic, I'm just having trouble understanding what exactly they did.
i.e, they worked to reform corrupt government organizations and to guard the welfare of the working class and the poor. But how exactly did they go about doing that?
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You can't really discuss progressive reforms without at least mentioning the "muckrakers," the term given to writers of the late 19th and early 20th century who exposed the less-than-picturesque details of life in industrial America. Because of writings like Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, which exposed the horrors of meatpacking plants, many Americans were galvanized to seek reform in a number of areas, including the use of child labor, monopolies, universal suffrage, food and drug safety, to name a few. The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 was intended to regulate the abuses of the railroad industry, upon which farmers depended heavily. The Keating-Owen Act was intended to stop the movement of products produced by child labor.
The previous posts did a great job on identifying the social and industrial impact of the Muckrakers. I think that striving to eliminate the patronage system, or spoils system, in urban politics was another way of integrating more voices into the political system. This can be seen as a political action that the muckrakers undertook. Another impact of the muckrakers can be seen in a larger context. Thinkers like the progressive muckrakers were the first to bring into the dialogue the idea of "how the other half lives," to quote Jacob Riis. This became extremely important in American thought because it helped to introduce the notion that for every step of progress, there are thousands, if not millions, of others whose voices speak of another story, an alternative narrative. These thinkers were highly aware that if these alternate visions did not become part of the discourse, they would be silenced. In demanding the voices of the dialectical "other" be heard, the muckrakers helped articulate what was wrong with America, and simultaneously, what was right with it.
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