Despite what is surely no more than a fragmentary and ran-
dom acquaintance with the literature of the social sciences,
I have found that my interest and gratification in my own
discipline have been enormously intensified by what I have
been able to take for it from other disciplines.
RICHARD HOFSTADTER, 1960
As the Progressive influence waned, historians were intellectually free to pursue new approaches to writing American history. The Depression thirties pointed to a perpetual cycle of clashes between capital and labor, but the unexpected economic boom that followed the Second World War quickly drained interest in the class struggles that engaged the previous generation. Postwar scholars were drawn, instead, to a more contemporary and troubling problem: why had nineteenthcentury liberalism proven so receptive to the siren songs of twentiethcentury tyrants? The influence of dictatorships on the mass mind cried out for investigation. And, in an age of Nazism, Stalinism, and (some on the left insisted) McCarthyism, historians were eager to analyze the particular social conditions that gave rise to authoritarian personalities. Richard Hofstadter's first two books, Social Darwinism and The American Political Tradition, had repeated rather than revised the main currents of Progressive thought. At the century's midpoint, however, he discovered in the fields of sociology and psychology disciplines that encouraged a more complete recovery of the hopes, dreams, resentments, and emotional motives of historical actors.
The Progressive historians had once led the charge to bring the social sciences into the academy. Beard's handling of economic history and Turner's studies on political geography are notable examples of their generation's efforts to create a more comprehensive account of human activity. The works of Freud, Max Weber, and Karl Mannheim, however, were either unavailable or too novel to be adopted by Progressive minds.