The Academic Mind and Reform: The Influence of Richard T. Ely in American Life

The Academic Mind and Reform: The Influence of Richard T. Ely in American Life

The Academic Mind and Reform: The Influence of Richard T. Ely in American Life

The Academic Mind and Reform: The Influence of Richard T. Ely in American Life

Excerpt

For over two generations economist Richard T. Ely (1854- 1943) popularized a wide spectrum of significant social ideas and mirrored many of the dilemmas, frustrations, and successes of the academician engaged in reform. He was both a participant in formulating, and a recipient of, the powerful ideas that agitated American reform circles in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He repudiated the older ideas that had blocked effective reform and lent an air of respectability to even radical proposals, while constantly appealing to traditional ethics. He infected a host of students and a large public audience with the need of applying human intelligence to social problems. With a fresh perspective to political economy Ely pioneered in new research and concluded his career by founding a new discipline, land economics. The story of Richard T. Ely lends itself especially well to exploring the role of the professor as both a contributor to reform ideology and as an activist in reform movements.

It is pleasant to have the opportunity to acknowledge my indebtedness to individuals who have been of particular assistance to me. Above all I want to thank my wife, Barbara, who has viewed the manuscript with a perceptive eye for stylistic improvement and handled much of the arduous task of typing. To her I owe an inestimable debt. Professor Paul K. Conkin provided searching criticisms and encouragement at each step of the manuscript's progress; my appreciation to him extends far beyond this book. I am obligated to Professors-

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