Progressivism

1.  Ministers of Reform: Progressives’ Achievement in American Civilization, 1889-1920, Robert M. Crunden, 1985.  Hardcover, 1982; paperback, 1985.
2.  Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era, Thomas C. Leonard, 2016.
3. Progressivism: A Primer on the Idea Destroying America, James Ostrowski, 2014.
4.  The Decline of Liberalism, Arthur A. Ekirch, 1955.  (Political Economy)
5.  The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Anti-Militarist Tradition, Arthur A. Ekirch, 1956.
6.  Dynamic Sociology, Lester Frank Ward, 1883.  Dr. Gary North said about Dynamic Sociology,

Dynamic Sociology stands as the first and perhaps the most comprehensive defense of government planning in American intellectual history. It was published about 15 years too early, but when his ideas caught on, they spread like wildfire. In fact, they became the “coin of the realm” in planning circles so rapidly that the source of these ideas was forgotten.”  

Adding that 

In Dynamic Sociology, we have the heart and soul of modern, post-Darwin social evolutionist philosophy. Ward did not pull any punches. He did not try to evade the full implications of his position. Modern thinkers may not be so blatant and forthright, but if they hold to the modern version of evolution—man-directed evolution—then they are unlikely to reject the basic ideas that Ward set forth. If you want to follow through the logic of man-directed evolution, you must start with Ward’s Dynamic Sociology.

Regarding American Sociology, there are a few founding members whose names should be mentioned.  One is  William Graham Sumner, who North refers to in his essay, whose essay What Social Classes Owe Each Other, 1883, and Herbert Spencer, both contemporaries of Charles Darwin.  It is Spencer who, developing a theory of evolution before Darwin, is credited with coining the phrase “the survival of the fittest.” His books sold in huge numbers during his lifetime and he was almost certainly the most famous philosopher of the Victorian age. Charles Darwin referred to him as “our great philosopher.”

William Graham Sumner (1840–1910) was a sociologist at Yale University, a historian of American banking, and great expositor of classical liberalism. Yes, this is the man often dismissed today as an outmoded “social Darwinist” — and this book shows why it is so important to the statists that his work is not given a fair hearing.

What the Social Classes Owe to Each Other was first published in 1883, and it asks a crucially important question: does any class or interest group have the duty and burden of fighting the battles of life for any other class or of solving the social problems to the satisfaction of any other class or group?

This was an interesting point made at the Mises article.  Why is Spencer all but forgotten and Darwin is the evolutionary biologist that whose name prevails?  It’s due to a book written by Richard Hofstadler in 1944, called Social Darwinism in American Thought. 

The responsibility for the besmirching and virtual destruction of the reputation of Herbert Spencer can be laid the door of one man, the author of Social Darwinism in American Thought 1860-1915, Richard Hofstadter. His book, a hostile critique of Spencer’s work, published in 1944, sold in large numbers and was very influential, especially in academic circles. It claimed that Spencer had used evolution to justify economic and social inequality, and to support a political stance of extreme conservatism, which led, amongst other things, to the eugenics movement. In simple terms, it is as if Spencer’s phrase, “the survival of the fittest,” had been claimed by him as the basis of a political doctrine.

But perhaps the question remains, what caused Hofstadler to misrepresent Spencer’s views on the free market?  Hofstadler was a communist.  Richards explains

I think it is useful at this point to look at Hofstadter’s background and bias. Hofstadter was born in 1916 in the United States, graduated from Buffalo University, and went on to receive his PhD from Columbia University. He joined the Communist party in 1938 and, although he became disillusioned with the Marxists, he still continued to oppose the free market, saying, “I hate capitalism and everything that goes with it.”7 He was an historian very much in sympathy with the American Left during the New Deal era of American politics. Subsequently many left-liberal writers have quoted Hofstadter’s references to Spencer without troubling to study Spencer’s original work, thus perpetuating the misrepresentation.

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