The Progressive Era

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What was the basic ideology of the Progressive movement?

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The Progressive Era arose in the late 1800s in reaction to the excesses of the Industrial Revolution, which had led to political corruption, wealth inequality, assimilation difficulties from mass migration, and the rapid growth of cities as interior migration took place. The basic ideology of this era held that reform of society through legislation is possible, beneficial, needed, and appropriate and that these reforming laws can best be created through application of the scientific method. The movement eventually affected all areas of society from business through the professions and academia.

While this impulse arose from laudable intentions, it led to oppressive policies such as the temperance movement, prohibition, and eugenics. As reformers shifted leftward politically in the late teens and early twenties after World War I, a backlash of sorts began.

Therefore, when we think of Progressive ideology, we think of societal reform and improvement by application of scientific methods and ideas, accomplished through the use of government laws and enforcement of those laws. There is also an exaltation of mechanistic industrial innovations based on efficiency, such as the assembly line.

Ironically, many of these reforms would come to be seen as oppressive, alienating, and dehumanizing rather than perfecting society.

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The basic ideology of the Progressive movement was one that called for using the power of the government to rein in big businesses and to enforce "better" behavior on the lower classes.  The Progressive movement was dominated by middle class people who wanted to make the other classes conform to their ideas.  They wanted businesses to stop being greedy and exploitative, which led to reforms such as "trustbusting."  They wanted the lower classes to behave in more "proper" ways, which led most notably to Prohibition.  In these ways, we can see that the driving ideology was one which called for greater government intervention to achieve progressive aims.

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