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expanding the “varying viewpoints”



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0expanding the “varying viewpoints”


A view of the Populists as backward-looking and irrational reactionaries:

“In the attempts of the Populists … to hold on to some of the values of agrarian life, to save personal entrepreneurship and individual opportunity and the character type they engendered, and to maintain a homogeneous Yankee civilization, I have found much that was retrograde and delusive, a little that was vicious, and a good deal that was comic. … Such tendencies in American life as isolationism and the extreme nationalism that often goes with it, hatred of Europe and Europeans, racial, religious, and nationalist phobias, resentment of big business, trade-unionism, intellectuals, the Eastern seaboard and its culture—all these have been found not only in opposition to reform but also at times oddly combined with it.”



A view of the Populists as forward-looking and rational:

“For the triumph of Populism—its only enduring triumph—was the belief in possibility it injected into American political consciousness.… Tactical errors aside, it was the élan of the agrarian crusade, too earnest ever to be decisively ridiculed, too creative to be permanently ignored, that lingers as the Populist residue.… The creed centered on concepts of political organization and uses of democratic government that—even though in a formative stage—were already too advanced to be accepted by the centralizing, complacent nation of the Gilded Age.… The issues of Populism were large. They dominate our world.”


0questions about the “varying viewpoints”


00. What does each of these historians see as the essential character of populism?

00. How does the holder of each of these viewpoints see the relationship between populism and the new corporate industrial order of the late nineteenth century?



00. How would each of these historians likely interpret the fact that populism disappeared as a political force but has remained a strong undercurrent in American political thinking?

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