Progressivismâ€™s Profound Influence on New Deal Policies
In his book The Promise of American Life, Herbert Croley speaks of the importance of â€œsocial cohesion.â€ Social cohesion is a state where all human beings are interconnected, and therefore each individual has a responsibility toward one another. Because of these interpersonal ties, people are capable, as a whole, of accomplishing anything- including the overall betterment of the society in which everyone lives. Two ages in American history embodied Croleyâ€™s philosophy: Progressivism and the New Deal era. Although the ages of Progressivism and the New Deal did not occur simultaneously, there are stark similarities between these periods. Both movements were promulgated by individuals and associations who sought a more just and less elitist society and government, both were lead by two of the most dynamic presidents of the twentieth century, and both were times of the creation of prolific legislation to help the economy and those in need. Although Progressivism and the New Deal are no longer ubiquitous political forces, the ideals that engendered the two movements still remain. The need for improving the conditions of a destitute lower class was the impetus for the reform of early Progressives.
Progressivism encompasses a humanitarian, political, and socio- cultural struggle. However, the fundamental goals of all Progressives were much the same: to improve ways of life for the typically impoverished, second- class citizen, and to expose and eliminate the pervasive corruption among the business and political elite. Many Progressives, like Croley, were optimistic about improving society. They questioned laissez faire and Social Darwinism, and believed that government, with influence from Progressives, could make positive and powerful reforms. Jacob Riis, a Danish immigrant and renowned journalist whoâ€™s influential book How the Other Half Lives