Poverty and Politics: The Rise and Decline of the Farm Security Administration

By Sidney Baldwin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE REVELATION: POVERTY ON THE FARM

All great idealisms appear to spring from the sail of materialistic defeat.

RALPH T. FLEWELLING1. The Survival of Western Culture

In the literature on Franklin D. Roosevelt's tenure in the White House, there has been disagreement about the intellectual ancestry of the New Deal and its instrumentalities. One school of thought, emphasizing the pragmatism, ethical relativism, and practical inconsistencies in the regime's programs and policies, has seen it as a sharp break with historical liberal reform in the United States. Another viewpoint has suggested that the New Deal was many things to many people and that the New Dealers were a mixed flock, but that their flexibility and opportunism should not obscure their intellectual and practical debt to the reform tradition. Whether the New Deal was an authentic link in the progressive tradition or a sharp new departure, there is consensus that a major current in the confluence of thought and practice out of which the New Deal evolved was agrarian poverty and the political dissent which that poverty helped to generate. The genesis of the Farm Security Administration, like

____________________
1.
Ralph T. Flewelling, The Survival of Western Culture ( New York: Harper, 1943), p. 26.

-18-

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