A Fierce Discontent

Topics: Social class, Progressivism, Working class Pages: 2 (669 words) Published: December 17, 2008
Alex FlintA Fierce Discontent

Progressivism and the Progressive Movement are two extremely vague and indeterminate pieces that fit into the American History. The fact is that it is not exactly an easy task to sum up what the Progressives were all about. In A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, Michael McGerr takes on this daunting endeavor by analyzing the cultural changes that were occurring in the late 19th and early 20th century. McGerr’s focus is expressed in the preface and is on what he believes to be the four quintessential progressive battles: to change other people; to end class conflict; to control big business; and to segregate society (xv).

One argument that McGerr provides for the book’s readers is that of the middle class being wedged between the poor, mainly immigrant working class and the wealthy “upper ten.” The author makes the point that the working class was numerically superior to the middle class producing strength in numbers, while the upper ten although it lacked in numbers it more than made up for that with money, which gave them influence and power. He believed that driven by the fear of being suppressed and overpowered by the two formidable groups surrounding them, the middle class aspired to do nothing but transform other Americans. McGerr felt that they wanted to reconstruct the United States’ feuding, diverse population in their own image.

In A Fierce Discontent, the assessment is that the middle class is the weakest of the nation’s classes, or more appropriately in a situational predicament. Based on McGerr’s descriptions, it seemed as though the middle class had the toughest situation, with the large working class powered by unions and at times socialist views below them, and the unreachable upper ten with all the wealth and power above them. McGerr notes that the middle class is aware of who they are as a whole and are...
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