A.P. US History
Looking Backward on the Progressive Era
Progressivism was a period of American history in which reforming working conditions, improving the way of life, exposing corruption, and expanding democracy rose from the city slums to Washington D.C. The lower and middle classes joined together to demanded changes in areas such a businesses and trusts, labor, and social conditions. Although the name and many of its goals make it appear as if it were a liberal and forward looking movement, the Progressive movement actually championed conservatism and return to a pre-industrialization political and social systems. The capitalist society that developed during this time seemed to squander the basic rights and social relations that it depended on. Its massive growth accompanied with the explosion of the city and the growing gap between the rich and poor made it seem like the industrial system was heading off the deep end.
As a social remedy, muckrakers exposed the social ills that capitalism was creating and in turn became one of its saviors. One of these writers was Edward Bellamy who published Looking Backward, a novel in which Julian West, a man from 1887, awakens to find a utopian socialist society juxtaposed against the harsh world from he came from. This book, not only depicting the evils of capitalism, also offered solutions that helped mobilize groups to help their common man. The progressive reform movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were the response to the problems in American industrial society criticized by Edward Bellamy in Looking Backward.
Capitalism, Bellamy argued, was the root of all problems in American industrial society. He pointed to competition, corruption, and most of all the inequitable distribution of wealth as being responsible for the poor living conditions of most people in the early...