Michael McGerr analyzes the American Progressive movement in his book A Fierce Discontent. Michael McGerr is an American historian, professor, and author of two books. A Fierce Discontent is truly the first of its kind; an authentic understanding by the author of the era allows for readers to analyze along with him. Due to the lack of organization of the movement, several differing ideologies are placed into the movement. The Progressive movement can be confusing due to its nature of being intertwined with various other movements, such as feminism and the civil rights movement. Therefore, the movement is widely misunderstood. The American Progressive movement arose in the late 19th century as a social movement, but eventually evolved into a political movement as well. This era mainly aimed to eliminate corruption within the United States’ government. Its importance in American history has lead Michael McGerr to clearly analyze and describe the movement. Through McGerr’s analyzation of the Progressive movement, he dissects the campaign into several categories which help one understand the goals of the Progressivists. McGerr’s organization of the book aid the individual in grasping the confusing nature of the Progressive movement. Starting each chapter with a story based on the experience of an individual, McGerr develops the idea that the individual was the focus of the movement. The argument of the author is that the movement was divided into four major battles. These include “to change other people, to end class conflict, to control big business, and to segregate society,” (McGerr xv). Furthermore, the views of individualism, society, gender, and pleasure by progressivists are used to delve deeper into the issues of the movement. While the author changes the direction of his argument with each chapter, he uses a single unifying trait: individualism. The author uses evidence in both broad statements and individual examples. The narrative evidence allows for the reader to grasp an experience. The broad statements as evidence allow for big picture ideas to be connected into the argument; for example, while McGerr is discussing the middle class, he mentions the newfound leisure lifestyle which helps explain the class conflict of the era (McGerr 71). Leisure was a new idea during the 1900s. It came into the lives of the upper class as they lost the need for constant working. The top 10% were rich, and they would stay there. They did not need to work to maintain their status and therefore found more time to themselves and their families. However, the middle class required longer hours to provide for their families and therefore experienced less leisure time. This bitterness by the middle class was only the beginning of the class conflict. As stated earlier, McGerr highly depends on the term “individuality” to showcase the complicated nature of the movement. The changing nature of individualism in the eyes of different generations, classes, and backgrounds was a major impact on the movement. This conflict of a simple ideology between people of several lifestyles proves why the Progressive movement is so complicated to understand for readers in the 21st century– because it was not even a collective movement among the people during that time. The clear organization and relatable evidence aids in McGerr’s successful analyzation of the Progressive Movement. The author is successful in providing a clear and logical path for his audience; he allows a confused generation to the the impulses and reasoning behind an earlier generation’s actions. McGerr’s strong emphasis on the class conflicts during the era allow for the movement to become much more simple than previously understood. It becomes understood that this was a middle class movement, an itch caused by the uncomfortable status. However, it becomes slightly confusing when taking into consideration the actual goals of the so-called “Progressivists.” Many followers of the movement fought for segregation of African Americans. The main weakness of McGerr’s argument is his minimal mention of race in comparison to class and gender (McGerr 130). While both class and gender are introduced as main points in the book, race is not mentioned until page 130. This uneven proportion creates a fault; the progressivists outwardly expressed their desire for segregation, yet race is not deemed an important enough category to be introduced until later in the book. One of the four aims of the Progressive movement is ignored for a large portion of time, leading one to question the author’s ability to analyze a movement in complete unbiasedness.


I'm Erica!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out