Study Questions/ Atlantic Crossings, Daniel T. Rodgers
- For Rodgers, how are the years
from 1870 up to WWII distinctive from the decades that preceded and
- In Atlantic Crossings,
Rodgers attempts to bring a transatlantic analysis and understanding to
the era of progressivism in American social politics. If, as Rodgers
argues, serious thinkers and writers about the past know the power and
influence of the transatlantic flow of ideas, then why has geocentrism
continued to pervade the writings on this era of history?
- How does Rodger’s work differ
from a comparative history of America and Europe? What is the
nature of the primary sources that Rodgers relies on the most to weave
- How did the “social economy”
displays at the Eiffel Tower exhibitions in Paris differ in significant
ways in 1889 and 1900? How did the exhibits of France, Germany,
England, and the U.S. differ and within what overarching framework of
ideas were these countries presenting?
- What does Rodgers mean by
social politics and what was the “social question” that was so pressing
at the beginning of the 20th c.?
- What were the shifting
perceptions and realities of New World America and Old World Europe and
how did they facilitate the burgeoning of the Northern transatlantic
exchange of ideas about social policy? What were the impediments to an
eager exchange of ideas in the earlier decades of the 19th
- How did the changes in the
countryside and cities of Europe and the U.S., wrought by industrial
capitalism, and the rise of working-class resentments, affect attitudes
towards the market?
- How did industrial capitalism
and its effects erode America’s image, at home and in Europe, as the
great teacher of democracy? Why did progressives now look to Europe as
the center for new social policy ideas, when Europe itself was
experiencing the same “damaging” and disruptive effects of the market
- What essential transformation
in power structures was emerging at the turn of the century? What were
the “Progressives” attempting to restrain and how did this differ from
what reformers and radicals of previous generations were trying to
- Why did the Americans draw more
heavily on European progressive ideas about social policy than
vice-versa? How did America lose its standing as the land of progress,
and why were progressives now turning to Europe for answers to the
future? What role did America’s distance from Europe play in enhancing
their sense of “behindhandedness”?
- What was the “quarrel with
laissez-faire” that was taking place in the seminars and lecture halls
of late 19th c. Germany? What is the central maxim of
classical economic liberalism? What role did German intellectuals
believe the state should play in a laissez-faire economy?
- What reformulations of ideas
concerning the concept of laissez-faire emerged from the quarrels over
classical economic liberalism taking place in the seminars and lecture
halls of late 19th c. Germany? What was the moral argument
in favor of laissez-faire economics and against state controlled
- How did the newfound ideas of
the German-trained American economists contrast with old ideas about the
- What is the “urban moment” in
the history of American progressive politics that Rodgers refers to?
What does Rodgers mean when he writes that the progressives strove to
transition democratic forms to democratic functions? How is this
represented in municipalization projects of America and Europe?
- In contrast to today, who was
the target population of the welfare states during the progressive era
and why? How did this affect the development of policies to safeguard
- Why did social insurance
against risk expand to include increasing segments of the populations in
Europe, while it faltered in the U.S. prior to WWI?
- How did American progressives,
who believed Europe to be at the vanguard of social politics, make sense
of their leap into WWI?
- How did WWI change Americans’
view of themselves in relation to Europe
- What was meant by the term “war
socialism” and how did progressives seek to capitalize on the war’s
collectivism? How did their disappointment in the aftermath of the war
affect beliefs towards state-led social intervention?
- Why did the marginal strain of
agricultural and countryside progressivism grow in centrality during the
New Deal reforms? How did what the progressives perceived as the
“malleability” of the countryside, in contrast to that of the cities,
effect the construction of solutions to the “social question”?
- What were the effects of the
commodification of modernism in the U.S.?
- With a new focus on utility,
why did the movement for working-class housing falter in the 1930’s?
- How does Rodgers explain the
sudden explosion in progressive reform that came with the New Deal? How
does he explain its timing and abundance of projects?
- How does Rodger’s “intellectual
economy of catastrophe” argument explain the sudden expansion of social
- With the conclusion of WWII,
the United States emerged as a world leader, and transatlantic
engagements with Europe were greater than ever. Why then did the
exchange of progressive social ideas with Europe suddenly unravel?