The Promise of American Life

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The Promise of American Life is a book published by Herbert Croly, founder of The New Republic, in 1909. This book opposed aggressive unionization and supported economic planning to raise general quality of life. After reading this book, Theodore Roosevelt adopted the New Nationalism.

The book is said to "offer a manifesto of Progressive beliefs" that "anticipated the transition from competitive to corporate capitalism and from limited government to the welfare state."

For Croly, the individualistic, libertarian America of the agrarian 18th and 19th centuries was gone, swept away by the forces of the industrial revolution, urbanization, centralization and modernity. He advocated a new political consensus that included as its core nationalism, but with a sense of social responsibility and care for the less fortunate. Since the power of big business, trusts, interest groups and economic specialization had transformed the nation in the latter part of the 19th century, only the embracing of a counterbalance to this power would serve the society of the future. Croly pressed for the centralization of power in the Federal Government to ensure democracy, a "New Nationalism."

In Croly's view, "the traditional American confidence in individual freedom has resulted in a morally and socially undesirable distribution of wealth." He argued for a national government that was more rather than less powerful than it had been, as a bulwark against what he regarded as overbearing self-interest, greed, corruption, and unchecked power. At the same time, Croly valued the individual motivated by civic virtue and "constructive individualism" and urged all to pursue this objective.

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