GiN Reading Room: Progressivism

If you’re looking for all of the shelves in the GiN Reading Room, you’ll find them here.

The history of the Progressive movement and how it impacts today’s government…

American Progressivism:  A Reader by Ronald J. Pestritto and William J. Atto

American Progressivism presents some of the most important essays and speeches from the leading figures of national progressivism. Students and scholars of American political thought and development, American politics, American history, the presidency, Congress, and political parties will find this reader to be an invaluable resource on the characteristics of progressive thought, the role of progressives in the development of the American political tradition, and will better understand the current resurgence in national progressivism today.

Living Constitution, Dying Faith:  Progressivism and the New Science of Jurisprudence by Bradley C. S. Watson

In Living Constitution, Dying Faith, political scientist and legal historian Bradley Watson examines how the contemporary embrace of the “living” Constitution has arisen from the radical transformation of American political thought. This transformation, brought about in the late nineteenth century by the philosophies of social Darwinism and pragmatism, explains how and why contemporary jurisprudence is so alien to the constitutionalism of the American Founders. To understand why today’s courts rule the way they do, one must start with the ideas exposed by and explained in Watson’s timely tome.

Today’s view–rooted in progressivism–is not simply that we have an interpretable Constitution, but that we have a Constitution which must be interpreted in light of “historically situated,” continually evolving notions of the individual, the state, and society. This modern historical approach has been embraced by the judicial appointees of both Democratic and Republican presidents, by both liberals and conservatives, for a century or more. Living Constitution, Dying Faith shows how such an approach has directly undermined Americans’ faith in a limited Constitution-as well as their faith in the eternal verities.

Liberal Fascism:  The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning by Jonah Goldberg

Liberal Fascism offers a startling new perspective on the theories and practices that define fascist politics. Replacing conveniently manufactured myths with surprising and enlightening research, Jonah Goldberg reminds us that the original fascists were really on the left, and that liberals from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hillary Clinton have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler’s National Socialism and Mussolini’s Fascism.

Contrary to what most people think, the Nazis were ardent socialists (hence the term “National Socialism”). They believed in free health care and guaranteed jobs. They confiscated inherited wealth and spent vast sums on public education. They purged the church from public policy, promoted a new form of pagan spirituality, and inserted the authority of the state into every nook and cranny of daily life. The Nazis declared war on smoking, supported abortion, euthanasia, and gun control. They loathed the free market, provided generous pensions for the elderly, and maintained a strict racial quota system in their universities-where campus speech codes were all the rage. The Nazis led the world in organic farming and alternative medicine. Hitler was a strict vegetarian, and Himmler was an animal rights activist.

Do these striking parallels mean that today’s liberals are genocidal maniacs, intent on conquering the world and imposing a new racial order? Not at all. Yet it is hard to deny that modern progressivism and classical fascism shared the same intellectual roots. We often forget, for example, that Mussolini and Hitler had many admirers in the United States. W.E.B. Du Bois was inspired by Hitler’s Germany, and Irving Berlin praised Mussolini in song. Many fascist tenets were espoused by American progressives like John Dewey and Woodrow Wilson, and FDR incorporated fascist policies in the New Deal.

Fascism was an international movement that appeared in different forms in different countries, depending on the vagaries of national culture and temperament. In Germany, fascism appeared as genocidal racist nationalism. In America, it took a “friendlier,” more liberal form. The modern heirs of this “friendly fascist” tradition include the New York Times, the Democratic Party, the Ivy League professoriate, and the liberals of Hollywood. The quintessential Liberal Fascist isn’t an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.

These assertions may sound strange to modern ears, but that is because we have forgotten what fascism is. In this angry, funny, smart, contentious book, Jonah Goldberg turns our preconceptions inside out and shows us the true meaning of Liberal Fascism.

The Progressive Revolution in Politics and Political Science:  Transforming the American Regime by John Marini (order this via interlibrary loan)

The Progressive Revolution in Politics and Political Science explores the scope, ambition, and effect of the Progressive revolution of a century ago, which relegated the theory and practice of the Founders to an antiquated historical phase. By contrast, our contributors see beyond the horizon of Progressivism to take account of the Founders’ moral and political premises and illuminate its effects on our political science and political practice today. It is a study in political philosophy, intellectual history, and current political understanding.

Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism by Ronald J. Pestritto

Woodrow Wilson’s political philosophy, argues Pestritto (politics, U. of Dallas), remained consistent from his earliest writings, through his career as an academic political scientist and his later political career. His argument rests upon an analysis of Wilson’s historical and political thinking, specifically in regard to the principles of the American founding. Wilson had an organic, historicist view of the state that led him to advocate for a more powerful, centralized national state and to advocate for the ability to interpret the constitution in accord with new historical contingencies. This argument leads Pestritto to conclude that Wilson, even as President, was not the anti-progressive many have claimed.

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