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The Concept of Progressivism


The rise of the Progressives was caused by the impact of industrialization on US businesses. Theodore Roosevelt was one of the most prominent members of the party, and his explanations provided the central notions of the movement succinctly. In 1912, Roosevelt delivered a speech in Kentucky, where he discussed the previous achievements and goals of the Progressives, as well as their characteristics. The main differences between those people who oppose or support Progressivism lie in active support for people of all classes and the fight against privilege becoming a significant force in political and economic decisions.

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Roosevelt describes Progressives as people who are engaged in helping people and encouraging innovation. According to Roosevelt (1912), those who “with fervor and broad sympathy and imagination, stands for the forward movement … for the uplift and betterment of mankind” can be considered progressive (para. 3). Therefore, these people are interested in providing resources for other groups that may be affected by harsh working conditions or changes in labor (Cullinane, 2016). The politician provides an example of protecting women and children from working long hours or providing aid to women who are employed in dangerous industries. Progressives support various types of social justice and make sure that people’s lives are improved and not harmed by the government and businesses.


In contrast to Progressives, their opponents do not believe in the principles of social justice. “Anti-progressives” are not invested in the lives of most people, their struggles, and their problems. Instead, they promote status distinctions by raising the abilities of privileged groups and allowing them to dictate their own rules for workers. Those persons who “favor special interests” for any reason, both intentional and accidental, cannot be considered progressive (Roosevelt, 1912, para. 13).

The opponents of the Progressive movement attempt to stagger the social justice-related progress by reversing the actions of progressive bills and taking people’s rights and decision-making abilities away from them. Individuals who hoard wealth by cutting the costs in unethical ways and abusing workers’ rights are “anti-progressive.”

Goals and Achievements

Many goals that the politician mentions are focused on working conditions and public protection. For instance, one of the aims is to secure the “direct election of United States Senators” and other representatives for the people (Roosevelt, 1912, para. 10). It is stated that the public should be able to choose who can address their needs and control the processes of political action. The next goal is to improve working conditions for all workers, especially those who do not have proper rights and protections. Roosevelt (1912) highlights that the rights of the working class should be the focus of changes, while the privileges of billionaires and business owners need to be reevaluated. Progressives demand fair treatment for all, real control over big businesses, and the disempowerment of monopolies.

A major example of progressive achievements includes the amended Rate Bill, which tried to alleviate the government’s control over the railways. The Progressives have removed most parts of the bill, which threatened to reverse the reformation of the industry. A described positive change is the right of people to “regulate water power franchise,” which, however, was suppressed by the Administration together with other regulation-centered legislation (Roosevelt, 1912, para. 21). During his speech, the politician provides more goals than achievements.


Overall, the progressives and “anti-progressives” are two groups of people that have different opinions regarding the need to change and reform the working conditions. Progressive individuals strive to regulate the industries and give more power to the public, both in political and economic spheres. Their opponents, on the other hand, do not believe that such control is necessary – they engage in activities that further separate the rich from the poor and encourage monopolization.

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Cullinane, M. P. (2016). Theodore Roosevelt in the eyes of the Allies. The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 15, 80-101.

Roosevelt, T. (1912). What is a progressive? Web.

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