The Strange History of a Radical Idea
260 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Hardcover | 9780268106973 | February 2020
eBook (PDF) | 9780268107000 | February 2020
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268106997 | February 2020
Bradley C. S. Watson has devoted a significant part of his career to studying the nature of American progressivism as it formed in the twentieth century, and this book represents his synthesis of the history of this idea. In Progressivism: The Strange History of a Radical Idea, Watson presents an intellectual history of American progressivism as a philosophical-political phenomenon, focusing on how and with what consequences the academic discipline of history came to accept and propagate it.
This book offers a meticulously detailed historiography and critique of the insularity and biases of academic culture. It shows how the first scholarly interpreters of progressivism were, in large measure, also its intellectual architects, and later interpreters were in deep sympathy with their premises and conclusions. Too many scholarly treatments of the progressive synthesis were products of it, or at least were insufficiently mindful of two central facts: the hostility of progressive theory to the Founders’ Constitution and the tension between progressive theory and the realm of the private, including even conscience itself. The constitutional and religious dimensions of progressive thought—and in particular the relationship between the two—in effect remained hidden for much of the twentieth century. This pathbreaking volume reveals how and why this scholarly obfuscation occurred. The book will interest students and scholars of American political thought, the Progressive Era, and historiography, and it will be a useful reference work for anyone in history, law, and political science.
Bradley C. S. Watson is the Philip M. McKenna Chair in American and Western Political Thought at Saint Vincent College. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including Living Constitution, Dying Faith: Progressivism and the New Science of Jurisprudence and Progressive Challenges to the American Constitution: A New Republic.
“Progressivism is novel because neither is it in thrall to Progressivism nor does it consider Progressivism as inevitable and inevitably domesticated. Rather, the author is capable of criticizing Progressivism at a fundamental level.” ~Jonathan O’Neill, Georgia Southern University
“Watson has crafted, not so much a historical genealogy of Progressivism, as its historiography. . . . Along the line of Watson’s march appear some of the brightest stars in the firmament of American historical writing (and political-history writing) in the 20th century: Richard Hofstadter, . . . Henry Steele Commager, Daniel Boorstin, C. Vann Woodward, David Potter, Louis Hartz, Arthur Link, Gabriel Kolko, Henry F. May, and Robert Wiebe.” ~Claremont Review of Books
"This is a singularly original contribution. I know of no such comprehensive review of the historiography of progressivism." ~Paul Moreno, the William and Berniece Grewcock Professor of Constitutional History, Hillsdale College
"Part of the book’s refreshingly clear-eyed view of American history and historians owes to its author being outside the guild. Watson is a political scientist, an expert on political philosophy, American political thought, and constitutional jurisprudence. His eyes are sensitive to theoretical matters and to debates among statesmen, judges, and political thinkers that some historians, at least, have written off as antediluvian.” ~Charles R. Kesler, from the foreword