What Did Progressives Believe?


Quick Answer

The central belief of Progressivism was that concerted effort was necessary to cure the social, political and economic ills affecting Americans society around the turn of the 20th century. These ills had largely been brought on by the rapid, abrupt developments of industrialization and unchecked capitalism.

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Full Answer

Ideologically, Progressives interpreted the need for and manner of change in a number of ways. However, there was an underlying unity in the understanding that industrialization marked the end of an old order and that the establishment of a new one was necessary. As such, many Progressives believed that all humans intrinsically held the ability to better their own situations and thus were not subject to any naturally structured hierarchy.

Many tried applying Progressive principles to create enhanced democratic opportunities in particular, calling for the increased prevalence of direct senatorial elections, referendums and open primaries. Others became committed to forming idealistically imagined communities located outside mainstream society to serve as models. Still others embraced socialist principles, conservation movements, anti-monopoly initiatives and improved food and drug laws. The common theme in all these variations was that government had the responsibility to intervene more powerfully in improving social health and safety, eradicating corruption, involving the people in the political process and creating a fair environment for all.

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