Try to read the Rodgers article first, and then the Wiebe, but only chapters 1-7.

Questions to consider for discussion:

Where does Wiebe fit into the picture of progressivism painted by Rodgers?

  • Does Wiebe really prove that local autonomy broke down between 1870 and 1920, or that this development had the importance he claimed?
  • Why was the concept of regulation so attractive during this period? And how does this correlate with Wiebe's claim (p. 5) that government was held in such low regard?
  • Wiebe shows his age, in a way, in the relative lack of attention to issues of race/class/gender in his analysis. How would such factors change his account--if at all?
  • What do you see as the long-term effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction on American society?
  • What does Wiebe mean by the term (11) "distended society?"
  • Does Wiebe devote enough attention to the economic transformation of the US? While he speaks of capital growth and the development of RRs, for instance, he seems to view them as mostly cultural forces as much as economic factors. Or, for instance, he sees anti-monopolism (p. 52) as an expression of "self-determination" rather than primarily an economic movement. Are you persuaded?
  • Does Wiebe offer an explanation for the apparent contradiction of a weak national government and phenomenally high voting rates? What is the essence of politics in turn-of-the-century America? The role of the courts?
  • What role do the likes of Bellamy and Powderly (chapter 3) play in constructing the Wiebe argument?
  • Wiebe detects a "search for order." OK. But who in this society doesn't seem to want order?
  • What was the essence of Populism in the Wiebe portrayal--was it primarily a social/cultural or economic movement?
  • What do you do with this quite extraordinary statement (p. 94)--"an overreaching compulsion to save civilization had transformed the conservative Cleveland into a startling administration"?
  • What is "middle class" in this society (111)--and what defined middle class?
  • What exactly accounts for Wiebe's stress on the importance of bureaucratic organizations?
  • Does Wiebe overstate the significance of the advocates of revolution in values (155)--and do you agree that this conception is "revolutionary" (163)?
  • What role does progressivism play in the Wiebe analysis--and what exactly is a reformer in the society he describes?
  • Does Wiebe offer a convincing explanation of why progressivism develops when it does?
  • Where is ethnicity in the Wiebe argument?