Reform and Reaction in Twentieth Century American Politics

Reform and Reaction in Twentieth Century American Politics

Reform and Reaction in Twentieth Century American Politics

Reform and Reaction in Twentieth Century American Politics


This volume presents a new theory of American politics developed through an investigation of the alternation of reform and reaction over the last century. By employing historical examples and resurveying the chronological territory chapter by chapter, the study details the development and decline of liberal reform movements and focuses on the similarities between eras of reform and reactionary phases and the interrelationship of reform movements over the decades.


So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

This is a work of interpretation -- an extended, speculative essay on American reform in the twentieth century. As an historian, I have written the book for historians, but also for a wider audience in the hope that people with a variety of interests and backgrounds will find it useful.

In order to comprehend the plan of the book, imagine yourself traversing the pitched roof of a house. You begin at the bottom of one side and work your way up. You pass row after row of shingles. You reach the peak, then edge down the other side.

As we ascend, the structure of this book emphasizes the ways in which a reform movement arises and develops. Pausing at the peak, I then lead the reader down the other side, showing how a reform movement declines and eventually ends. The shingles represent chapters, each overlapping the one below it, yet each also self-contained. There are twenty chapters in the book.

Let me present some of the fundamental arguments here. For generations many scholars have described the workings of American politics as a cycle. What is meant by this term varies from writer to writer, even from discipline to discipline. Political scientists, for instance, have stressed alternating electoral coalitions: eras of domination by one party are punctuated from time to time by great events that traumatize the voting public and usher in a phase of domination by the other party. Some political scientists have seen an "equilibrium cycle" operating: the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.