Cover of: The populist persuasion | Michael Kazin

The populist persuasion

an American history

Published by BasicBooks in New York, NY .
Written in English.

About the Book

Our Constitution promises a government of the people, by the people, and for the people - but who are "the people"? And who can honestly claim to speak for "the people"? Here, in the first comprehensive history of populism in our nation, Michael Kazin examines the strange career of populist politics from the era of Thomas Jefferson to the era of William Jefferson Clinton. Once identified with the dispossessed, the poor and exploited workers from farm and factory, populism in recent years has been brought to the forefront of the political landscape, embraced by the likes of Ronald Reagan and Jesse Jackson and glibly applied to figures ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Rush Limbaugh. Kazin calls populism an impulse rather than an ideology. He defines it as a mode of political persuasion that combines anti-elitism, adoration of the common people (usually defined as hardworking, pious, and, until quite recently, white), and a belief in the American ideal of democracy that the power brokers in business, government, and academia have betrayed. Kazin argues that populism has undergone two major transformations since the defeat of the People's Party, the original Populists, in the mid-1890s. The first was a split between those who viewed "the people" as a group belonging above all to God and those who viewed ordinary Americans in primarily economic terms. The second, an ongoing shift to the Right, began in the McCarthy era. The movement was transformed by the onset of the Cold War, the ideological mellowing of the labor movement, and the New Left's self-imposed alienation from the American mainstream. In the 1960s, George Wallace showed how to attract blue-collar Democrats with populist rhetoric. Then Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan captured and refined populist themes for the benefit of the Republican Party. Kazin shows that the Right's conception of a struggling middle class beset by an inept, immoral state remains vigorous and limits what Bill Clinton or anyone to his left can accomplish. The Populist Persuasion unrolls a fascinating narrative of our country's history, richly endowed with examples demonstrating the flexibility of populist rhetoric. Bringing to life the powerful voices of past leaders, Kazin shows how they both inform the political debates of our own time and point with hope toward a future in which the country will live up to its original democratic ideals.

Table of Contents

Introduction : Speaking for the people
The righteous commonwealth of the late nineteenth century
Workers as citizens : labor and the Left in the Gompers era
Onward, Christian mothers and soldiers : the prohibitionist crusade
Social justice and social paranoia : the Catholic populism of Father Coughlin
The many and the few : the CIO and the embrace of liberalism
A free people fight back : the rise and fall of the Cold War Right
Power to which people? : the tragedy of the white New Left
Stand up for the working man : George Wallace and the making of a New Right
The conservative capture : from Nixon to Reagan
Conclusion : Populisms of decline.

Edition Notes

Includes bibliographical references (p. [358]-364) and index.


Dewey Decimal Class
Library of Congress
E661 .K25 1995

The Physical Object

x, 381 p. :
Number of pages

ID Numbers

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Internet Archive
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