Sophie Cocke



Study Questions/ Atlantic Crossings, Daniel T. Rodgers


  1. For Rodgers, how are the years from 1870 up to WWII distinctive from the decades that preceded and followed them?
  1. 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?
  1. 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 his narrative?
  1. 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?
  1. What does Rodgers mean by social politics and what was the “social question” that was so pressing at the beginning of the 20th c.?
  1. 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 century?
  1. 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? 
  1. 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 revolution?
  1. 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 curtail?
  1. 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”?
  1. 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? 
  1. 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 economic policy? 
  1. How did the newfound ideas of the German-trained American economists contrast with old ideas about the economy? 
  1. 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?
  1. 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 against poverty?  
  1. 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?
  1. How did American progressives, who believed Europe to be at the vanguard of social politics, make sense of their leap into WWI? 
  1. How did WWI change Americans’ view of themselves in relation to Europe
  1. 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? 
  1. 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”? 
  2. What were the effects of the commodification of modernism in the U.S.? 
  1. With a new focus on utility, why did the movement for working-class housing falter in the 1930’s? 
  1. 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?
  1. How does Rodger’s “intellectual economy of catastrophe” argument explain the sudden expansion of social insurance?
  1. 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?