ROBERT LA FOLLETTE: And the Insurgent Spirit by David P. Thelen

ROBERT LA FOLLETTE: And the Insurgent Spirit

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LaFollette was the Wisconsin GOP progressive whose Senatorial career spanned the 1890s depression and the 1920s farmer-labor militancy. This bland biography gives little sense of the man, except his compulsiveness and a certain primness; it is hard to weigh the author's suggestion that his fight against American involvement in WW I chiefly expressed a canny reading of mass sentiment. The book shows LaFollette moving from ""insurgency,"" defined as an appeal to consumer interests across class and ethnic lines, to more traditional kinds of constituency support including the railway unions. The author's penchant for labels means that LaFollette tends to be tagged as an agrarian individualist and chronic foe of ""corporate modernization"" even after the book has outlined the LaFollette-Brandeis-Commons ""Wisconsin Idea"" and its industrial commission as an advanced form of such ""modernization."" And the book virtually omits the Socialist Party, which was very much on the mind of prewar progressives, especially in its Wisconsin stronghold. Since no comparable general biography exists, this may have value as a reference, but it is a superficial and conceptually unsatisfying one.

Pub Date: Feb. 5th, 1976
Publisher: Little, Brown