Progressive Era: a revolutionary time in the history of America


The progressive era remains a revolutionary time in the history of America. With its foundation in several aspects including social applications of science, moral and intellectual intelligence and the use of state power in coercing individual behavior, it is arguable that while progressivism had its positive impacts on society, it carried with it a potential for repression and destruction. Notably, the use of direct state power in controlling business and social behavior first came in force during this era. Several other reforms that improved the society in various ways were instituted during the progressive era despite the fact that lack of adequate control posed a significant risk to the American society.

A significant importance of the progressive era was that it addressed real and serious social problems that were prevalent in the American society at the time. Such good intentions of the progressive social thought included the restoration of morality in the cities through control of films, prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse and child labor. These efforts were positive and improved the society as a whole but not without certain shortcomings. However, there are certain aspects of the progressive social thought that could easily destroy the American society and hinder the collective efforts that were required at the time.

It should be noted that the progressive era acted as a precedence in the later determination of the rights of the American people. As a result, the negativities of this era were a key contributor to social problems witnessed in America in later times. One destructive and repressive nature of the progressive movement is the scientific bigotry that saw an increase in violation of human rights and freedoms by the state. The concept of scientific bigotry resulted in forced sterilization of sex offenders, criminals and mentally deficient people, being a violation of human rights through a social application of science. Another repressive and destructive aspect of the progressive era is the racial segregation and discrimination against the Blacks, Jews, and eastern and southern Europeans. These races were branded ‘unfit groups’ and were sterilized as a means of controlling immigration. The practices established were later applied by Adolf Hitler causing unbearable harm and destruction on humanity.

The segregation of blacks and the belief that they were not potential allies for the progressive reforms divided America along the racial lines. Instead, blacks were viewed as a social danger and menace that needed to be controlled and kept out of public life. The advancement of white supremacy through unjustifiable means was destructive and significantly affected the rights of non-whites. The use of uncontrolled state power to compel individuals to behave in certain approved ways was by itself a destructive force that threatened human rights and freedoms.

The focus of the progressive social thought on reforms was founded on sincere concerns. However, the means of instituting reforms as seen in the disturbing ingredients of the thought posed a great threat of division, discrimination, humiliation and inequality to people that lived in America. The extent of such repression and destruction was proven in the later occurrences such as those seen during the fight for the rights of African-Americans and people of color. Thus, the statement correctly describes the era.

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