The Promise of American Life
Aggressive voices promote minority special interests. Wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. The middle class is under siege. Giant corporations and big business threaten democracy itself.Such was the state of the United States after the Civil War, and if it sounds familiar, then it only underlines the continuing relevance of Herbert Croly's The Promise of American Life, first published in 1909. Croly saw an American culture desperately fragmented, torn by the transformation from a rural, agrarian economy to an urban, industrial one, and called for a righting of societal and economic imbalances through collective national efforts and strong government.President Teddy Roosevelt backed his theories, which also influenced the shape and scope of FDR's New Deal years later. But the historical import of Croly's passionate and stirring manifesto on Progressive political belief is overshadowed by its pertinence to the social and economic issues facing Americans today.American journalist HERBERT CROLY (1869-1930), one of the foremost political philosophers of the early 20th century, helped found The New Republic magazine in 1914.
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Page 37 - ... whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.
Page 24 - The inference which follows may be disagreeable, but it is not to be escaped. In becoming responsible for the subordination of the individual to the demand of a dominant and constructive national purpose, the American state will in effect be making itself responsible for a morally and socially desirable distribution of wealth. The consequences, then, of converting our American national destiny into a national purpose are beginning to be revolutionary. When the Promise of American life is conceived...
Page 9 - He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.
Page 8 - What then is the American, this new man ? He is either an European, or the descendant of an European, hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country. I could point out to you a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have now four wives of different nations.
Page 9 - Wives and children, who before in vain demanded of him a morsel of bread, now, fat and frolicsome, gladly help their father to clear those fields whence exuberant crops are to arise to feed and to clothe them all; without any part being claimed, either by a despotic prince, a rich abbot, or a mighty lord.
Page 6 - The only fruitful promise of which the life of any individual or any nation can be possessed, is a promise determined by an ideal. Such a promise is to be fulfilled, not by sanguine anticipations, not by a conservative imitation of past achievements, but by laborious, single-minded, clear-sighted, and fearless work.
Page 4 - I make this generalization on the usual narrow foundations, but so the impression comes to me. Until this present generation, indeed until within a couple of decades, it is not very evident that Americans did envisage any national purpose at all, except in so far...