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The Progressives' CenturyPolitical Reform, Constitutional Government, and the Modern American State$
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Stephen Skowronek, Stephen M Engel, and Bruce Ackerman

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300204841

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300204841.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM YALE SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.yale.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Yale University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in YSO for personal use.date: 23 September 2021

Progressivism and the Disenchanted Constitution

Progressivism and the Disenchanted Constitution

(p.41) 2 Progressivism and the Disenchanted Constitution
The Progressives' Century

Aziz Rana

Yale University Press

This chapter begins by recovering the basic social democratic critique of the Constitution during the Progressive era, especially in the context of worries about the incompatibility between Tocquevillian myths and industrial realities. It then works through the political disagreement among Progressives over whether citizens needed to engage in a formal act of wholesale textual revision and even refounding. Both sides agreed that the 1787 framework had to be fundamentally altered, but internal and external critics reached different conclusions about whether change could be achieved without explicit rupture and whether surface constitutional fidelity would necessarily reproduce exceptionalist tropes. Finally, the chapter focuses on lessons for the present—especially on how Progressive-era critics press Americans to disenthrall themselves and to conceive of the Constitution instrumentally, to judge questions of constitutional support not by expectations of national fulfillment or on aspirational desires for the text, but instead by debates over political utility and effective freedom.

Keywords:   Constitution, Progressives, Progressivism, Progressive era, constitutional support

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