The Promise of American Life

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The Promise of American Life
Promise Of American Life.jpg
Publisher: The Macmillan Company
Author Herbert Croly
Year Published 1909
Language English

The Promise of American Life was a book written by Herbert Croly, which was one of the most influential political books of the 20th century.[1][2][3] A major theme of the book is Croly's interpretation of "Hamiltonian" and "Jeffersonian" values and what it meant for the future of the country. Additionally, he supports the elimination of limited government.


Though not widely read outside of academic circles,[4] the book would have a lasting effect on President Theodore Roosevelt and may have been the source for the concept of the New Nationalism.[5][6] It would also have a role in shaping the New Deal.[7]

Book Reviews

After reading The Promise of American Life, former President Theodore Roosevelt wrote the following:

In Mr. Herbert Croly's 'Promise of American Life," the most profound and illuminating study of our National conditions which has appeared for many years, especial emphasis is laid on the assertion that the whole point of our governmental experiment lies in the fact that it is a genuine effort to achieve true democracy - both political and industrial.[8]

Writing in The Federalist, C. C. Taylor wrote:

Observers outside the progressive consciousness routinely mischaracterize the book as a tome on freedom and liberty. They misunderstand Croly as sort of a reincarnated Founding Father. In reality, the book’s assumptions are authoritarian, and its author a collectivist.[9]

According to the University of Houston: "If any one book can be said to offer a manifesto of Progressive beliefs, it was Herbert Croly's The Promise of American Life."[10]


In the book, Croly argued that a more equitable distribution of wealth was desirable.

In becoming responsible for the subordination of the individual to the demand of a dominant and constructive national purpose the American state will in effect be making itself responsible for a morally and socially desirable distribution of wealth.[11]

To achieve this goal and many other goals, he wrote that National politics have from the start aimed primarily at efficiency — that is, at the successful use of the force resident in the state to accomplish the purposes desired by the Sovereign authority.[12] Progressivism has always been about the use of force to ensure that their demands can never be undone, using the police power of government to achieve their goal.

Progressive Democracy

Croly followed up with his second work, Progressive Democracy.[13]

See also


External links