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Progressivism Misery of the Masses

Progressivism - Misery of the Masses

[i:7a88bc7b81]Question: How did progressives redefine poverty? Why was that important? Where and why did progressive solutions for the problems of poverty fall short?

If there was one period of American history that could be labeled the most influential or constructive to the reality of our society today, perhaps it would be the Progressive movement. A reason may be progressives were not against the American system, they just wanted to fix it. They believed strongly in the good of humanity, fairness, and regulation. Truly conservatives at heart, they wanted to revert back to the days of equality of opportunity, democracy, and social justice. Equality, fairness, opportunity all predominately applied to the poor since they were most likely the ones being taken advantage of. In light of poverty progressives, however, had a much different view than the sin of the individual. Poverty, in their eyes, was directly related to the environment and opportunities an individual was presented with. This outlook was important because it was at the roots of all the reforms progressives lobbied for. However idealistic and good-hearted the efforts of progressives were to eliminate poverty, they were accompanied with mis-education and poor treatments.

The Progressive views of poverty are fairly simple: poverty is the product of failures of the government and the environment it creates. Driven by social justice, people like Jacob Riis showed the grim reality of poverty to the rest of the world. In this particular case, he used photographs to powerfully illustrate the effects from abuses of an industrial society. Riis and others like Jane Addams, Theodore Dreiser, and Frank Norris all took up the cause for the needy and created sympathy for the less fortunate. The majority of progressives steered away from the issue of self sin that brought about some of the evils of society they were fighting against: alcoholism, corruption, prostitution, and drug abuse. This again fuses the idea that the life of the poor was a direct product of the environment in which they lived.

Because of the secular way progressives looked at the poor, they used unorthodox and modern methods rather than the evangelical means of the past great awakenings. The progress of social service moved from the settlement house movement to the social worker which was committed full...

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