Progressivism’s Forgotten Roots

Progressivism’s Forgotten Roots

Atlantic Crossings:
Social Politics in a Progressive Age
by Daniel Rodgers
Harvard University Press, 1998 508 pp $35

It is one of the oldest and most cherished of American conceits that the United States of America possesses a unique and privileged position among nations. From the Puritan John Winthrop’s vision of a “city on a hill” to Ronald Reagan’s invocation of Winthrop at the 1984 Republican National Convention, extolling the “shining city on a hill,” Americans have long considered the American way to be both singular and exemplary.

Recent events have lent new credibility to this old boast. In the international power vacuum created by the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States has assumed the mantle of sole superpower, police force, and economic guru for the “new world order.” And with the collapse of communist governments and the erosion of support for social democracy across the globe, it is hard to dispute the force of the newly invigorated American faith in free government and free markets. The snipping of the American social safety net has been heard round the world; Clinton-styled centrists across Western Europe have put an end to welfare as it had been known. The American example, for better or worse, reigns supreme.