Health and medicine sociology

Inequalities and the Progressive Era (Book presentation)

June 30, 2021 13:15
June 30, 2021 14:45

Guillaume Vallet, University of Grenoble Alpes


The American Progressive Era (1890-1920) is a key period in the history of American capitalism. Indeed, this period takes place in the context of the post-civil war and prolongs the ‘Gilded Age’, which corresponds to the industrial ‘take-off’ of the United States. The American Progressive Era was characterized by deep ambivalence, between economic and social progress on the one hand, and growing inequalities of different natures on the other. Concretely, this is a period dominated by monopolies, the development of financial capitalism, but also by the first concrete economic and social advances (market regulation, social laws, etc.). Likewise, the idea of progress aimed at developing the emancipation of individuals to build the American nation and democracy is coupled with a still marked segregation with regard to women or the black population. In the name of the collective progress of American society, sexism, racism and eugenics in particular are not always clearly condemned. Consequently, in this particular context, several reformist thoughts emerge, notably by academics in the social sciences. Academics like R.T. Ely (in Economics) and A. Small (in Sociology), for example, sought to use a multidisciplinary approach to define and implement new types of economic and social policies, especially involving state intervention. In other words, they believed that the construction of a ‘reasonable’ capitalism was possible, ‘reasonable’ meaning for them the possibility of a third way between liberal capitalism and communism. But it is also important to understand that this progressive era fits itself into a particular phase of capitalism, marked by the second industrial revolution in many countries of the 'old continent', but also by the development of imperialism, colonialism and exacerbated nationalism. Consequently, other countries in the world are undergoing profound economic and social transformations which give birth to innovative thoughts, but also sometimes conservative on the issue of inequalities of various natures: economic, social, political, gender, ethnic. 

The session will focus on the presentation of the book dedicated to this issue, entitled Inequalities and the Progressive Era. Breakthroughs and Legacies (Published in June 2020) [Edward Elgar Publishing]. Resting on an innovative approach, the book gather international researchers from different social sciences on the topic. Moreover, this session welcomes contributions from researchers aiming to deal with an issue related to the topic. Papers could be either theoretical or empirical, focusing on a specific theme or scholars of the period. Likewise, since the Progressive Era is characterized by the inception of the institutionalization of the social sciences in the United States, papers coping with this issue would be highly appreciated.