The Paradox of Southern Progressivism, 1880-1930

The Paradox of Southern Progressivism, 1880-1930

by William A. Link
     
 

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Focusing on the cultural conflicts between social reformers and southern communities, William Link presents an important reinterpretation of the origins and impact of progressivism in the South. He shows that a fundamental clash of values divided reformers and rural southerners, ultimately blocking the reforms. His book, based on extensive archival research, adds a… See more details below

Overview

Focusing on the cultural conflicts between social reformers and southern communities, William Link presents an important reinterpretation of the origins and impact of progressivism in the South. He shows that a fundamental clash of values divided reformers and rural southerners, ultimately blocking the reforms. His book, based on extensive archival research, adds a new dimension to the study of American reform movements.

The new group of social reformers that emerged near the end of the nineteenth century believed that the South, an underdeveloped and politically fragile region, was in the midst of a social crisis. They recognized the environmental causes of social problems and pushed for interventionist solutions. As a consensus grew about southern social problems in the early 1900s, reformers adopted new methods to win the support of reluctant or indifferent southerners. By the beginning of World War I, their public crusades on prohibition, health, schools, woman suffrage, and child labor had led to some new social policies and the beginnings of a bureaucratic structure. By the late 1920s, however, social reform and southern progressivism remained largely frustrated.

Link's analysis of the response of rural southern communities to reform efforts establishes a new social context for southern progressivism. He argues that the movement failed because a cultural chasm divided the reformers and the communities they sought to transform. Reformers were paternalistic. They believed that the new policies should properly be administered from above, and they were not hesitant to impose their own solutions. They also viewed different cultures and races as inferior.

Rural southerners saw their communities and customs quite differently. For most, local control and personal liberty were watchwords. They had long deflected attempts of southern outsiders to control their affairs, and they opposed the paternalistic reforms of the Progressive Era with equal determination. Throughout the 1920s they made effective implementation of policy changes difficult if not impossible. In a small-scale war, rural folk forced the reformers to confront the integrity of the communities they sought to change.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
These two works represent vastly different approaches to post-Civil War Southern history. Flamming (history, Cal Tech) focuses on the impact of Crown Mill Textile plants on the community of Dalton, Georgia, for a century. He combines statistics, public records, and oral history to present a comprehensive overview of how the textile industry changed and dominated a southern city. From the mill's founding by paternalistic family owners to union struggles and the mill's eventual closing, an overwhelming array of data is presented without judgment. Link's book, on the other hand, is, in the author's words, ``not a comprehensive history of Southern progressivism'' but ``an extended essay.'' Link (history, Univ. of North Carolina-Greensboro) contends that the real paternalism was practiced by outside reformers who tried to impose centralized bureaucratic controls over local matters, thereby alienating localists and dooming progressive reforms. While Flamming has written broadly about one locale and Link has written narrowly about the whole South, both books are recommended for academic and regional collections.-- Gary Williams, Southeastern Ohio Regional Lib., Caldwell
Booknews
Focusing on the cultural conflicts between social reformers and southern communities, Link presents a reinterpretation of the origins and impact of progressivism in the South. He shows that a fundamental clash of values divided reformers and rural southerners, ultimately blocking the reforms. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
[J]oins the short shelf of indispensable books on the subject.

Journal of Southwest Georgia History

An admirable work full of rich detail that is set within a logical interpretation; it will certainly excite further interest.

Journal of Southern History

This exhaustively researched book makes an important contribution to southern history and to our understanding of the Progressive movement.

History of Education Quarterly

His work offers a provocative interpretive framework for more specific state and local studies.

American Historical Review

Link has accomplished an elegant piece of synthesis and interpretation, and this volume deserves to be widely read.

Southern Cultures

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807862995
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
11/09/2000
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
464
File size:
4 MB

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