Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article


Tiffany Jones Millera1

a1 Politics, University of Dallas


Scholarly discussions of the turn of the 20th century progressive movement frequently ignore or give but glancing attention to the progressives’ racial views and policies. Those who do pay greater attention to them nonetheless tend to dismiss them as being somehow “paradoxical” or inconsistent with what they regard as the movement’s core, “democratic” principles. The purpose of this paper, accordingly, is to explain the origin and nature of the movement’s core principles, and to show how the reformers’ racial views and policies, far from being inconsistent with these principles, were in fact their natural outgrowth. The progressives’ support for the colonial subjugation of the Filipinos, as well as the disfranchisement and segregation of American blacks, reflects, in other words, the transformation in the character or content of public policy necessitated by the reformers’ rejection of the “individualism” of the American founding in favor of a new conception of “individualism” chiefly inspired by early 19th century German idealism.

Tiffany Jones Miller is Associate Professor of Politics at the University of Dallas. She is especially interested in the intersection of political philosophy and American political thought and practice. She has published on various aspects of the theory and practice of the American Founding and Progressivism, and is currently writing a book on the turn-of-the-twentieth-century Progressive movement's impact on the domestic policy reforms of the Progressive era, New Deal, and Great Society.