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The purpose of this essay is to review the book by Robert McMath American Populism: A Social History 1877-1898. The review will describe the kind of message that the author is passing on to the readers. It will also recommend the type of people who are suitable for reading this book.
The author has identified “antimonopolism“and “producerism” as the key aspect of populist way of thinking. The above mentioned themes explored the virtues of an independent man who is working and able of his own wellbeing as well as that of the society without depending upon the control of other members of the society. There is a doubt on whether this idyllic state has ever been arrived at in the American society, but it cannot be doubted that in the 1870s as well as 80s small farmers from the South and Plain state endured suffering, which was not of their own making, but this suffering resulted from natural as well as economic forces .This vicissitudes undermined their sense of being in a position to control their socio-economic destinies.
The book explores the measures, taken by the affected rural Americans. They first formed cooperatives, based on the dense community ties. Secondly, they took up political actions in order to counter the effects of industrialization in their lives. The book is all about a complex story, which mainly involves a variety of labor and agrarian organizations. They are dominated by a farmer alliance, which started in Texas and later spread to other parts of America.
The author of the book admits having drawn many of his view, concerning populism from vast work, which had been done by various history scholars. The book complements mainly the work, done by Lawrence Goodwyn, in his book Democratic Promise. The author does not agree with the scholars that view populism as reactionaries but they are not willing to give in to the demands of progress.
On the other hand, Goodwyn finds the main populism activities as being located in the southern part but dismisses the populism movement having taken place in other regions. The author of this book on his part is of the view that populism movement activities took place both in the northern and western plains, seeking reforms. Furthermore, the author takes into consideration the movements and organizations that were in the forefront in the populism movement. The two scholars are in agreement that the demises of the Knights of labor and Alliance eroded the bases of activism as well as undermining the chances of Populist Party succeeding in its quest.
The cost of the book is also friendly to all readers from all walks of lives, therefore, making it affordable to all. The book can be read by scholars from all fields who are interested in the history of the American society. Though the book is more suitable for those in the field of industrial relation, political science and finally, in the field of American history.
Despite the book being brief, it is highly readable as well as very insightful on the issues, associated with populist movement. The book forms an excellent foundation for someone, introducing him/herself to populism. The book is also very resourceful as it has a number of bibliographical essays for those who want to read further on the subject of populism.