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The Political Economy of American Populism from Jackson to the New Deal

  • Thomas Goebel (a1)

Over the past few decades, historians engaged in the study of American Populism have advanced a number of conflicting interpretations of the last great protest movement of the nineteenth century. Among the most influential representations of Populism have been the following: Populists as reactionary and vaguely anti-Semitic predecessors of American fascism, as agrarian romantics nostalgically clinging to the Jeffersonian ideal of the independent yeoman, as modern reformers embracing an American version of social democracy, as agrarian republicans aiming to build a cooperative commonwealth on the basis of mutuality, and as true radicals offering the final challenge to the rise of corporate capitalism in America. Although no final agreement on the true nature of Populism has been achieved, despite the impressive scholarly output that has made the study of Populism into a minor cottage industry among historians, there has been a powerful trend toward a renewed appreciation of the radical character of Populist protest. In challenging the dominance of the two major parties and in advocating a comprehensive program of economic and social reform, American Populists are widely regarded as reflecting a ground swell of opposition to corporate America. With the demise of Populism after the disastrous election of 1896, the hopes for building a radically different America faded.

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Studies in American Political Development
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