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Explore Populism, Progressivism, the New Deal and the War on Poverty - Research Paper Example

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Explore Populism, Progressivism, the New Deal and the War on Poverty

As one looks more deeply into the intellectual climate in which these policies were past, it becomes clearer that these two philosophies are intertwined. First, one must define what exactly constitutes populism. Populism is a form of discourse (or rhetoric in some cases) that is attractive in some way to the public, typically those who are not in the extreme upper or lower classes. According to one scholar, it is “a folksy appeal to the 'average guy' or some allegedly general will” (Smith 41). However, to call something simply a form of discourse, with no underlying theory, philosophy, or ideology, is a shallow look into what is actually going on. Leaving aside the assumption that populism is only used for political gain and mass appeal, it seems that at the heart of this idea of the general will is that the general will has ultimate legitimacy in political matters. If populist speeches portray the common people’s needs and wishes as important, it is fair to say that populism itself things that the common people’s needs and wishes are important. Why exactly a particular form of populism believes this is true depends on the philosophical assumptions of the theory. Likewise, in order to better understand progressivism, one must define it. 20th century progressivism is a swathe of attitudes that generally favored changes and reforms in the government. Noticeably, this definition does not say ‘why’ these changes and reforms were made; it only says that progressives believed they were necessary. Progressivism came about in response to modernization: fears about monopolistic corporations, environmental degradation, and alleged corruption in the government. In response, progressives became known for pushing reforms and transformations to the way governments operated. As a belief system, progressivism is based on a philosophy of pragmatism, which holds that what is true is what works. Applied to public policy, this is the idea behind social progressivism: that as society changes and evolves, what is true about how a government should be run likewise changes (Kloppenberg 279-284). In the 20th century United States, the progressivists indicated that the government was out of step with the society that it was governing. The Progressive Era in the United States was an approximately 30 year-long period in which progressivist beliefs and reforms gained enormous popularity. Disillusioned by the superficial prosperity of the Gilded Age, progressive intellectuals and politicians endeavored to achieve the truth of what works. In practice, this meant compromise as a matter of principle. Part of the Progressive Era was President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s Bull Moose platform for social justice exemplified this kind of emphasis on the need for a social progressivism—that what is now true is that the government should play a role in easing economic and social disadvantages for specific Americans. The Bull Moose platform was precedent for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal policies in the 1930s in response to the economic devastation of the Great Depression ...Show more

Summary

Some of the major policy achievements of the 20th century undertaken by the Federal government include the Social Security Act (including Medicaid entitlements), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Nineteenth Amendment. Although this is only a short list, encompassing few of many possibilities, it is meant to show two things: first, that despite the present era in which the federal government struggles to produce meaningful, long-lasting legislation, there is a history of such long-reaching and long-term law; and second, that progressivism has had an enormous impact on the American government during the 20th century…
Author : hschmeler
Explore Populism, Progressivism, the New Deal and the War on Poverty essay example
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