The Humane Economy: Populism, Capitalism, and Democracy

The Humane Economy: Populism, Capitalism, and Democracy

The Humane Economy: Populism, Capitalism, and Democracy

The Humane Economy: Populism, Capitalism, and Democracy

Excerpt

I provide the background for my theory in a brief sketch of Populism. I simply cover the traditional ground of Populist economic grievances to familiarize nonspecialists with basics necessary for them to follow more closely the ensuing analysis of political and economic ideas. But in reality I also address scholars of Populism. I suggest to them that the traditional ground conceals as much as it reveals the substance of Populist thought. However exhaustive one's coverage, the tacit equation of historical location and economic grievances fails to take into account the movement's non- economic and nonagricultural dimensions, or to be exact, its wider critique of the prevailing industrial society. In the introduction I discuss the essentially commonplace; in the body of the text, I seek new avenues of discussion.

Populism was a movement of social protest in the western and southern United States at the close of the nineteenth century. It expressed agricultural discontent in the face of widespread structural and political change that was rooted in the development of industrial capitalism. Populists accepted both industrialism and capitalism; they rejected the specific form of modernization, which, they believed, resulted in an organized structure of corporate power that was leading to the economic, social, and political dominance of business throughout American culture and society. According to Populists, modernity should neither limit nor destroy democracy, but the consolidation of wealth, in their view, menaced the continued existence of free institutions of government. They envisioned a social order in which the democratic control of industry would be possible; they were searching for a moral basis for capitalism and an autonomous government that would be devoted to the public interest.

Populists' agrarianism took in fundamental issues extending beyond the problems in the countryside. Part of the reason for their atypical social perspective lay in the way their agrarianism had actually developed. It grew with the movement, and it was based on decentralized organization that . . .

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