A Study in Boss Politics: William Lorimer of Chicago

By Joel Arthur Tarr | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
The Political Machine as Public Servant

OPPOSING AND CONTRADICTORY FORCES--some integrating and centralizing, others distintegrative and fragmenting--beset the American industrial city at the end of the nineteenth century and affected its march toward modernization and development. On the one hand were the disintegrative and decentralizing forces: localism and provisionalism, tension between immigrant and native and immigrant and immigrant, and religious and class antagonisms. The lack of centralization characterized politics and government, where party factions and the town and ward system allowed "local and particularistic interests to dominate."1 The concerns of their localities rather than the city as a whole dominated the activities of the city's political representatives.

On the other hand were the forces of centralization. Many of these derived from the structural and technological transformation reshaping American urban life. The streetcar line, the telephone, and the mass-circulation newspaper were part of a communications revolution that knit the city closer together. Other forces of centralization reflected the corporate thrust toward systematization, rationalization, and efficiency. Many enlightened business leaders believed that these tendencies should be applied to the public as well as the private sector

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1
Hays, "Politics of Reform,"161; Hays, "Political Parties and the Community- Society Continuum," in William Nisbet Chambers and Walter Dean Burnham, eds., The American Party Systems: Stages of Political Development ( New York, 1967), 164-165; Wiebe, Search for Order, 44-75, 164-195; Seymour J. Mandelbaum, Boss Tweed's New York ( New York, 1965), 1-45. See also Frederic C. Howe, The City: The Hope of Democracy ( New York, 1905), and The Modern City and Its Problems ( New York, 1915).

-65-

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