What’s the Constitution between friends?”
–George Washington Plunkitt
We tend to think of friendship above all as a private set of relationships, distant and distinct from those shifting public interactions where interest, intrigue and even deception often reign. For Americans in particular, the idea that friendship should have relevance to public life seems a strange and even absurd idea. The American system, to a large extent, was officially designed to institutionalize mistrust. As James Madison argued in the most famous of the Federalist Papers – Number 10 – an “enlarged orbit” of the Federal system would have the salutary effect of increasing the number of interests in the political arena, as well as expanding the geographic area of the country, leading to great and even insurmountable difficulties for people seeking to form firm and ongoing political relationships. “Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be remarked, that were there is a consciousness of unjust or dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust, in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary.” The size, scope, and sheer variety of interests will have the salutary effect (in Madison’s view) of generating mistrust, and we will view public life as an arena for the sheer combat of interests shorn of the dignity of trust, friendship, or love.
Yet, written only some seven years before the Constitution, the Articles of Confederation – which the Constitution ultimately replaced – began by asserting that the “states severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other” and that the origin of the Confederation was “better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different states of this union.” If Madison was to argue that the working basis of the Constitution would be its effective inculcation of mistrust among the citizenry, the original grounds for union lie in an aspiration to “Friendship.”
An older tradition – pre-dating the American Constitutional order, and persisting for a long time even within the context of that order – argued that public life was a sphere of dignity and even majesty precisely because it was the realm in which one of the highest human goods – friendship – could flourish. Moreover, at base it held that politics was based upon an aspiration to community and commonweal – involving the chastening of the demands of self and its interests – for the sake of others with whom one was bound in bonds of friendship and self-sacrifice. The measure of political life was not – as Harold Lasswell was to argue – “who gets what, when, and how” – but rather, as my teacher Wilson Carey McWilliams argued, above all “with whom.” 1 Citizenship was understood to be a discipline of friendship, the learned capacity to care for others outside oneself. Politics at its best aspired to a high form of friendship, not its opposite.
Of course, this older tradition derives from an even older source, the ancient Greeks and above all Aristotle. Aristotle acknowledged that friendship was a fundamental human good, but further recognized that friendship was deepest sources of the bond that united citizens in their highest devotion to the common good. Thus, Aristotle wrote in the Nicomachean Ethics that “if men are friends, there is no need of justice between them; whereas merely to be just is not enough – a feeling of friendship is also necessary.” (1155a). By this he meant that claims to justice between individuals are finally inferior to the relationships between friends. Justice demands only what is fair for me and you, and has deep in its origins the mistrust that you might be getting something more in the bargain than I am likely to be getting. Justice, then, is a standard of subtle enemies, an even division of booty in which both sides are apt to view each other warily and even with underlying hostility. Robbers and gang members are capable of acting “justly” among themselves. Friendship, on the other hand, includes the willingness at least occasionally, and sometimes often, to get less than one deserves for the sake of another for whom one cares. The ultimate friendship – fittingly worth noting at the beginning of Lent – is that friendship of God to Man, and of Jesus to his fellow humans, who surely got less than he deserved and gave more than any godhead has ever been expected to offer to an inferior creature. As we pray every Sunday before receiving the body of Christ, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.” We pray not for justice from God – for surely we would all burn eternally in Hell if justice was the measure – but for mercy, for love.
In turn, we are asked to emulate such generosity and charity to our fellow humans. This was the overarching message of what may have been the first political speech in (or at least near, or approaching) the new America – John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity,” a sermon he gave aboard the ship Arabella in 1630. Called upon to be “stewards” of God’s grace working in the world, as a company he calls upon his fellow Puritans to be “knit together by this bond of love.” As they establish “a due form of government both civil and ecclesiastical,” he insists to his fellow citizens-to-be that “care of the public must oversway all private respects by which not only conscience but mere civil policy doth bind us; for it is a true rule that particular estates cannot subsist in the ruin of the public.” If Locke and liberalism insists that our fundamental reason for agreeing to the creation of the political realm is to secure the rights of “life, liberty and estate,” Winthrop by contrast argued that “particular estates” are ultimately subordinate to “the public.” Thus we are called to see our selves as ultimately bound up in the shared fates with our fellow citizens (here echoing Aristotle that “a friend is another self”):
For this end, we must be knit together in this work as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection; we must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities; we must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together: always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body….. For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of the world upon us.
(That famous concluding line – drawn itself from the Gospel of Matthew – was used to good effect by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, but to completely opposite purposes to those of Winthrop. By that point, the language of Winthrop had been co-opted to defend the politics of Lockean liberalism. It was the second greatest political swindle in American political history, just after the assignment of the label “Anti-federalists” to the party of true federalism.)
For a long time in American political history, the reality of political friendship – otherwise excluded in the official founding of America – was most visibly alive in that unofficial institution that sprung up to correct one of the glaring weaknesses of the new Constitution, namely, political parties. Parties arose as the glue for political groupings in a landscape otherwise hostile to political friendship, and were above all in the first century of American politics the main institution that linked local to national issues, while at the same time preventing the national tendency toward homogenization from running roughshod over local concerns. For this very reason, it was the Progressives in the early 20th-century who devoted ferocious energy to eviscerating the power of the Parties, and, in particular, the emotional bonds that motivated political commitments and the local attachments that forestalled complete identification between the individual and the nation. Thinkers and politicians like Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt saw themselves perfecting the ambitions of Hamilton in the creation of “a national system” (Federalist 23). The main obstacles to the prevention of that national system – particularly one that would increase economic and military power – were local allegiances. Particularly as manifested in political parties, these needed to be eliminated through “reform.”
The Progressive reform movement gave rise to some of the great political essays in modern times – that is, by opponents to the Progressives who saw (in ways that are not longer evident to us) the main impetus for these “reforms” and who rightly discerned that the object was not the elimination of corruption, but rather a broadside against a conception and practice of politics based in local forms of loyalty, commitment, and commonweal (I would place in their number such relatively well-known authors as Randoph Bourne, Jane Addams, and Josiah Royce, and lesser lights such as George Washington Plunkitt, H. C. Merwin, and Henry Jones Ford). Perhaps among the greatest and most remarkable political science articles written at this time – if not exactly “forgotten,” since it’s doubtful that it was ever well-known – was an essay published in 1902 by the NYC settlement house reformer Mary Kingsbury Simkohvitch entitled “Friendship and Politics.” 2 In that remarkable article – surely unpublishable in the same journal today, which is now dominated by “empirical” political science – Simkohvitch diagnosed the motivations and ignorance of the “reformers” who sought to “solve” the problems of tenement poverty from the top-down, “working on the people, not with them” (199).
Above all, she discerned that the “reformer” – outside the actual interactions between local people – comes from a position of assumed superiority. In sentiment, if not language, that might have come from a Tea Party critic of government-from-a-distance, she wrote,
[The reformer] is distrusted, like every foreigner. He comes from a different environment. His English is a different tongue from the people he desires to reform. His experience is, for the most part, extremely limited. He is absolutely uncolloquial. He is unfamiliar with all those elements that make up the great traditions of party loyalty. He does not sympathize with those traditions, even if he knows them. He is an outsider. He is working on the people, not with them. He wants them to be different from themselves and more like him. In all this the position of unconscious superiority is alienating in its effect…. Added to the doubt of the reformer’s substantial merits there is often as well the dark suspicion that he is a decoy, a sort of forerunner of the rule of the capitalist, a man clever with words but leading one on to ruin. [198-9]
The real relationships of people in their localities is to be replaced by rationalized and approved “programs” – “justice” is to replace “friendship. Much of the domestic politics of the 20th-century has been precisely motivated by this ambition, to displace local loyalties, and with them, attendant limitations upon those loyaties, with an abstract loyalty to nation (and, now, to the “international community”) in which concrete relations are replaced by fungible arrangements based in utility and justice is ensured by government mandate and policy. Justice – the inferior standard of mistrustful individuals – liberates us to pursue our interests without concern for the loyalties to places and communities; it is a wan echo of friendship, aimed above all toward the goal of individual liberation from the “bondage” of care, and further, a narrowed view toward the world and fellow creatures to one based mainly upon utility. Fellow citizens become more often viewed as competitors and even enemies than friends: as Aristotle predicted, where civic friendship wanes, lawsuits fill the emptied public space. Accordingly, our general mistrust for the public grows, and our relationship to law becomes one in which we see it as an imposition from outside – by “foreign” elites – rather than as emanating from the interaction of fellow citizens with a shared and discernible concern for commonweal. Our “liberation” from the bonds and limitations imposed by friendship in politics leads to the rise of the felt sense of political tyranny. This analysis, of course, echoed Tocqueville’s understanding that the rise of “soft tyranny” came not from “Statism” as such, but the isolation and weakness experienced by modern democratic “individuals.”
Above all, what has been displaced is a different set of ends or purposes for human life. A politics based in more local and ongoing relationships among people who see their fate as shared and bound together makes substantive space for goods that go beyond utility, wealth and power. Thus expendable are the goods of family, community, culture and tradition, the attendant practices of leisure, learning, art (especially shared story and song), and worship. Indeed, it is the shared bonds formed and deepened in these contexts and practices that chasten the more sinful, utilitarian, and self-interested motivations that have today come to dominate our understanding of politics and life itself. Politics today is about securing one’s interests and the attendant need for growth in all of its forms, above all, the growth of power. However, to achieve this most unnatural form of political life, a concerted effort was needed to eliminate the reality, and even possibility, of friendship in politics. For those who would seek the restoration of republican liberty, at the forefront of their concerns should be to restore friendship to its rightful place – in the public square. 3
1. Harold Laswell, Politics: Who Gets What, When and How? (1935); John Schaar and Wilson Carey McWilliams, “Uncle Sam Vanishes,” New University Thought 1 (1961): 61-68. This latter essay begins, “The political process is an effort to unite men in the pursuit of a common goal and vision. Politics, then, involves two questions: the question of “with whom,” and the question of “for what.” Furthermore, it involves these questions in precisely that order.”
Liberalism, alternatively, reverses the priority of these questions, or more precisely still, eliminates the former consideration and thus leaves only “for what” as the reigning concern of politics – a fact that mightily elucidates many contemporary predicaments, particularly our inability to live collectively within our means.
2. Mary Kingsbury Simkohvitch, “Friendship and Politics,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 17, no. 2 (July 1902): 189-205.
3. For a lengthier treatment of these themes, see Patrick J. Deneen, “Friendship and Politics, Ancient and American” in Friends and Citizens: Essays in Honor of Wilson Carey McWilliams (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001), 47-66. Much of the essay is available online here.
As one who was also mentored by Carey, an excellent restatement.Continue to fulfill the obligations of a friend and mentee.
[…] Read the whole thing. […]
Patrick, that’s an excellent defense of cronyism and good ‘ol boy politics.
But you should have pointed out how it’s different when government is limited and local than when it has a huge scale and scope. When it is limited and local, people have more means of escape from the oppression of all this friendship when it goes bad, as it often does. And that has a good effect on the in-crowd that benefits from all its connections.
“It was the second greatest political swindle in American political history, just after the assignment of the label “Anti-federalists” to the party of true federalism.)”
I’d say the greatest political swindle in American political history is the big-government Trotskyites assuming the name “Neo-conservative.”
Aristotle notwithstanding, the three mottoes I recall from my mis-spent youth as a politician are:
1. Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate.
2. No good deed goes unpunished.
3. “What have you done for me…lately?”
God forbid that we should ever reach that halcyon province of the so-called “global-community” where aspirations and outlooks have become so standardized that slogans and statist oversight actually does unite the runt remains of our various tribes. Push Button Enervation, how nice.
I doubt it’s likely at this juncture because the Technocrats, in their lust for efficiency and some nebulous idea called “progress” have forgotten that we all exist for the immediacy of community and if there is one primary sacrifice in the rush to globalism, it is community . Great conurbations are being created and distances shortened and markets unified but the individual is being put at increasing distance from both their own identity and the traditions and emollients of local life. In reaction, the erection of popular Fort Apaches are just now being rolled out, last ditch defenses against things we know we’ve lost but can’t quite put our finger upon. Monsters are going to be made in the confused conceits of such resentment.
Locales, aside from the virtual locale of our debt suburbs and their financial centers, but the many and diverse locales in this country…… as well as across the world….. are finding themselves arrayed upon a continuum that starts at moribund and ends in the obliteration of “replacement”. Skills are declining, traditions eroding, fulfillment is cheapening and wages…that fully insufficient barometer for a people professing soul…are stagnant. Purchase power , we are told, is declining and yet we wonder why our voluble “leadership” cannot gain any purchase upon getting us out of the deepening rut.
The Revolutionary Society has outsmarted itself and outsourced life to the winds of a siren called “Change”. Modernism is a swooning attachment to the Mind expressed quixotically in anti-mind physicality. No wonder somebody left the soul at the bus station.
Satire however, never sleeps.
“the bond that united citizens in their highest devotion to the common good.”
Of course Aristotle’s conception of friendship highlights just how difficult it will be “to restore friendship to its rightful place,” since Americans have largely lost the concept of friendship. As our culture increasingly rejects the notion that the term “common good” has any positive content, the possibility of finding filia in the Aristotelian sense becomes impossible. The only “common good” of American culture seems to be “freedom” — i.e., the common good of having no common good.
Hence most modern “friendships” are of utility, or at best of pleasure — start talking about true friendship (and the shared vision of a capital “g” Good that true friendship requires) and you’re liable to be condemned for being exclusivist.
The “common good” is a rather totalitarian concept. At least it works that way when you’re comparing the “national interest” with “special interests.” A lot of horrible crimes of the last century were committed for the sake of the common good.
J.D. Salyer, you seem to imply that friendship in a society that isn’t based on a common good is not really friendship but instead consists of utilitarian relationships. Seems to me that in the real world of the last century it was if anything, very much the other way around. Societies which made the common good the top priority did not treat private, individual friendships with much favor unless they were completely subordinated to the common good. Loyalty to friends was impossible in those societies, but it was possible to “use” individual relationships.
(I spend a lot of time watching Russian movies, both from the Soviet era and after. The contrast between these two types of relationships often is very important to the films.)
Those who join together in fellowship to resist totalitarian systems are bound to one another by their own vision of the common good.
In any event, perhaps I didn’t express myself well. I hardly meant to imply government propagandizing everybody into goodness. Even if those in power had anything approaching an accurate grasp of justice and the good — unlikely at any point in the near future — there are many cases where the methods impact the means. The common good cannot be promoted by top-down, despotic fiat.
I would say, rather, that one cannot commune with another soul without, in fact, sharing something in common with him/her. One cannot achieve spiritual community without the people of the neighborhood in question possessing something in common other than mere geographic proximity and the willingness to engage in commerce.
In an absolutely relativistic and consumerist society, there is simply nothing to share — or at least nothing deeper & stronger than a hobby. (Incidentally, this is, I think, the true weak spot of the American Empire. Its success parasitically undermines the very civic virtues that are a precondition of its continued solvency.)
You may have already read it, of course — but if not, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (Books VIII & IX) might give a better idea of where I’m coming from, in terms of various kinds of friendship — and also a better idea, I suspect, of what Dr. Deneen is driving at in the 4rth paragraph.
“where the methods impact the means”
should read something like, “where the ends and the means cannot be separated.”
I don’t think you should put down the willingness to engage in commerce as a basis for relationship. Nor do I think you should put down friendships that are utilitarian. (Yes, I’m contradicting something I wrote earlier.)
I have probably not read the Aristotle writings you refer to, because I don’t remember ever being annoyed by anything he wrote on that subject.
Let me refer to different example. Native Americans of 2-3 centuries ago tended to view commerce differently than Europeans did — especially differently than Ango-Europeans did. NA’s viewed it as a relationship, while Anglo-Europeans viewed it as market transactions. NA’s expected their trading partners to be loyal because they were family. They didn’t just switch trading partners because a new one offered better goods at a lower price. Well, actually they did, but it was a big deal to break off an old relationship to do that. Anglos generally couldn’t expect to trade with Indians just by offering good prices and high quality. They had to marry into the families and establish what anthropologists call “fictive kinship.”
It may be hard for us to understand what “relationships”, including the friendship variety, meant in those societies. But some Anglos did. Benjamin Franklin had some famous observations on the subject:
“When an Indian Child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our Customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and make one Indian Ramble with them, there is no persuading him ever to return, and that this is not natural to them merely as Indians, but as men, is plain from this, that when white persons of either sex have been taken prisoners young by the Indians, and lived a while among them, tho’ ransomed by their Friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay among the English, yet in a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of life, and the care and pains that are necessary to support it, and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, from whence there is no reclaiming them.”
Franklin thought this was because life was easier as an Indian. And although in some ways I suppose it was, in the literal sense it was most assuredly not an easier, carefree life. He was wrong about that.
My own hypothesis as to what was happening is summarized in the word “relationships”. Anglos who lived with the Indians found that they developed intense personal relationships that just didn’t happen in the communities into which they had been born. They were relationships of life and death — people could not survive on their own. They didn’t want to go back to their white parents because there just weren’t the same type of interpersonal relationships in those societies. Some people did eventually go back, sometimes more than willingly, but the interpersonal relationships of life in Native American communities exerted an extremely strong pull. People living as Indians were alive in a way that they never could be in the Anglo-American communities.
However, these relationships were very much utilitarian relationships — they were relationships of dependence. I guess I now wish I knew what Aristotle said about friendship, because I think the most intense friendships people have are those that are based on utility — on absolute dependence on each other.
Take family relationships, for another example. A strong family bond is developed when family members depend on each other for life and health. When they don’t really need each other because the government will come in and provide if the parent messes up and makes a stupid choice, then there isn’t such a strong family relationship. When everything is an entitlement from the government, none of our choices really matter to each other, and you end up with the social pathologies you now see in the U.K.
I hope I’m making a little bit of sense. This is something I should learn to explain better if I’m not. But it’s late at night and it’s hard for me to tell right now if I’m explaining myself very well.
BTW, I suppose I should be posting as The Spokesrider rather than The Reticulator now that I’ve taken this turn with my comments.
I’ve written a couple of blog articles about Ben Franklin’s observation, including one that gives an example of how the relationships of dependency were relationships that were especially intense: Keeping them down on the farm once they’ve seen Ohio”
The Progressive reform movement gave rise to some of the great political essays in modern times–that is, by opponents to the Progressives who saw…the main impetus for these “reforms” and who rightly discerned that the object was not the elimination of corruption, but rather a broadside against a conception and practice of politics based in local forms of loyalty, commitment, and commonweal (I would place in their number such relatively well-known authors as…Jane Addams….)
Because being predictable is that what makes blog discussions worth having, Patrick, I feel obliged to protest your slipping Jane Addams into your list of “opponents to the Progressives.” Addams was fully committed to the Progressive movement, going so far as to hit the campaign trail in full support of Teddy Roosevelt in 1912. She was, I think, fully cognizant of the degree to which social reform often invites and even depends upon a condescending distance, and she argued with herself over that fact (consider her struggle over dealing with Catholic immigrants and alcohol consumption as Hull house). Yet that never slowed her commitment to reform legislation, because she was also fully cognizant of the equally important fact (at least, it is if one wishes to take the actual, material living conditions of persons into consideration along with broader, more conceptual concerns about the nature and telos of one’s life) that “local forms” of corruption–corruption that kept jobs unsafe, neighborhoods unclean, and children unwell–were those which the poor of America’s new cities found most harsh, and therefore those most in need of higher powers to combat. The result is, of course, a continual balancing act, a set of one compromise following another, trying to establish public goods so as to protect and promote the dignity and freedom of ordinary individuals on the one hand, while similarly trying to prevent the provision of the public goods from becoming enervating in their bureaucratic invasiveness. I’ll happily grant that the balance is in most ways significantly out of whack today, and is in need of serious correction; that’s why I like hanging around here. But writing as though the Progressives themselves were ignorant of the need of such balance (even if, obviously, the terms of such were expressed quite differently a century ago) does an unfairness to the breadth of their work.
“I hope I’m making a little bit of sense.”
Actually yes, I think so — you’ve made points worth chewing on. Real community does indeed tend to involve some measure of material interdependence.
But I think something is missing in your account of friendship, too; unfortunately it would take a prohibitive amount of time & energy for me to engage your points, coming as I do from a very different reference frame. (Please don’t take it as a brush-off; I’m juggling about 20 different bowling pins on my end, and my time for writing, leisure intellectual activity, Internet commenting, etc., must be carefully rationed.)
In any event you’d undoubtedly get more out of dipping into Aristotle — or C.S. Lewis’ “Friendship” chapter in *The Four Loves* — than anything I might write.
Mr. Salyer: I used to read a lot of C.S. Lewis — his writings have been very important in my life — but I can’t seem to find my copy of “The Four Loves.” Maybe I don’t have a copy of my own. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since I last read it, so I’m eager to find out what I can learn from it now.
I’ve also gone back and re-read Patrick Deneen’s reference to Aristotle more closely, as well as yours. That has convinced me that I need to read what he had to say about friendship, too.
Dr. Deneen, this is a fascinating essay on an aspect of political life that is denied or ignored today. Politics is not less than justice, but it must be more than justice for the concept of justice to even be intelligible. This is something that reminds me of Hauerwas’s Aristotelian answer in this interview:
The movement from the John Winthrop’s view of the polis to the very pessimistic view of James Madison is intriguing; usually, the pessimistic view of the human condition is (accurately) attributed to Protestant Calvinism, but the Puritan Winthrop was more Calvinist than Madison, who seems to have drifted away from a strongly Calvinist education and organized religion toward a Unitarianism over time. I’ve often wondered why a more positive influence from the doctrine of redemption didn’t seem to balance out the negative doctrine of original sin. Yet, perhaps it did in Winthrop’s time (1587-1649), but lost its way as the Enlightenment took hold in the next two centuries and “religious beliefs” were to be excluded from the public square. The (public) truth of redemption in Christ seems less “empirical” or universally believable by Enlightened people than the fallen nature of man. Today, even Barack Obama can publicly claim how he adheres to the “Christian realism” of Reinhold Neibuhr, who loved quoting the London Times’s quip that “the doctrine of original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith.”
However, if Stanley Hauerwas is right to critique the liberalism inherent in this belief:
then the U. S. has never really divorced all “religious” belief from the public square, but instead accepted a deracinated conception of original sin which has no intelligibility apart from its conception of God (if Hauerwas is right) and ignored the other (more positive) truth concerning redemption and friendship in Christ.
Seeking only justice in a sinful world rather than friendship by grace would be very problematic, as you indicated: “We pray not for justice from God – for surely we would all burn eternally in Hell if justice was the measure – but for mercy, for love.” Though, I’d argue that one doesn’t have to throw out or minimize justice to give grace; Jesus did both simultaneously, and I think he expect us to as well.
The Reticulator, I think your disagreement with Mr. Salyer is a mere semantic one concerning the word “utilitarian.” I think he is criticizing “utilitarian” relationships that are merely concerning material exchange (kind of like the Anglo relationships you criticize), while you use describe “utilitarian” relationships as involving material benefit and exchange, but not being limited to it, i.e. not merely material benefit. You’re both right in my eyes.
Excellent essay, with many fine points. Thank you, Patrick.
I think there’s truth in both the liberal, individualist tradition and the republican, commonwealth tradition. Jefferson embraced the value of both individual and community, and you can see in his thought some common ground with both Locke and Rousseau. It’s hard to find that balance in most people and most movements. We tend to veer off too far into libertarianism without the benefit of communitarianism, or vice versa. As A.W. Tozer put it, “Truth has two wings.”
Russell is right, of course, that Jane Addams was an important leader of the Progressive movement. But there were Progressives and there were Progressives. She was a prominent backer of Roosevelt’s Progressive Party in 1912, but before it became a vehicle for TR’s thirst for a return to power and the limelight, it was really more of a La Follette party. The political movement that began in the Republican Party and migrated into the PP was built by La Follette and his friends and was coopted by Roosevelt and his friends. The best account is Amos Pinchot’s History of the Progressive Party, 1912-1916. Even TR’s Bull Moose running mate, Governor Hiram Johnson, was a La Follette-style Progressive (personally close to Roosevelt but politically much closer to La Follette).
The disconnect between Addams and Roosevelt can be seen in their reactions to World War I. Addams was a pacifist who resisted U.S. entry. Roosevelt…was not. Addams also backed the second Progressive Party: La Follette’s vehicle in 1924 for an anti-monopoly and anti-empire coalition. It was predominately agrarian and midwestern, but also had considerable support from urban labor and eastern intellectuals (e.g., the Railway Brotherhoods, AFL-CIO, Socialist Party, Amos Pinchot, Oswald Garrison Villard).
So Addams was a Progressive, not a top-down, elitist type. She was no Herbert Croly or Walter Lippmann, just as La Follette was no Roosevelt and Bryan was no Wilson. Putting her in the company of Randolph Bourne seems about right. She was a Progressive who believed in popular sovereignty and peace, not social engineering and war.
Oops, not the AFL-CIO. The Congress of Industrial Organizations wasn’t created until the mid 1930s by John L. Lewis. It merged with the American Federation of Labor twenty years later. I should have stopped at “AFL.”
She was a Progressive who believed in popular sovereignty and peace, not social engineering and war.
Well put, Jeff…except that you then need to explain the relatively extensive (in comparison to what then existed in the cities of late 19th-century/early 20th-century America) social engineering which Addams did embrace. There needn’t, I think, be a profound divide here: Addams, like the best of the Progressives (La Follette and his crowd, the people who wore their connection to the midwestern and plains Populists proudly), wanted to see the sort of planning and engineering that would result in greater liberty for families and communities–public transportation, cleaner parks, etc. She supported Roosevelt because she recognized that it was primarily the influence of corporate power which was preventing the people to use government–including, of course, the national government–to these ends. (Addams, I think, would have been among the first to start agitating on behalf of a Constitutional amendment following the recent Citizens United ruling.)
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