Machine Politics Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1328 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Government

Origins of Machine Politics - by Amy Bridges

Arguments: Which do the book make? Are they successful? Author Amy Bridges makes several strong arguments in her book, and she makes them believable. She is a well-researched writer, and it comes across to the reader that she is not speculating about her subject, she is making assertions based on her research and scholarship. For one, she argues that in order to understand the dynamics of antebellum urban politics, one has to first understand how class enters into the picture. This is a different approach from other historical works that sought to explain how machine politics got started in America; Bridges mentions that the instability of national political parties (including the collapse of the Whigs) in the early 1850s really offered an opening for the working class to emerge and be courted by political bosses in New York City.

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Bridges challenges previous theories that tended to focus on ethnic, religious, ideological and cultural reasons for the growth of machine politics. But she contends that those theories ignored a powerful new surge of class-consciousness among working class people. New York City was ripe for machine politics because the workers were gaining strength as a lobby, and they began to put pressure on the political structure in New York City; politicians were listening because they realized that workers could put them in power and keep them in power. A good politician, whether from the 19th Century or from New York City in 2007, knows which side of the bread to put the butter on; in other words, smart operators go where the votes are, whether those votes are ethnically or culturally based, or even based on economic levels.

Her basic argument is that assertive working class people joined with immigrant interests to become a political force - and that they were brought into power by the political forces smart enough to mobilize them. Also, local government was growing rapidly in the mid-1800s, and small shops were being pushed aside by manufacturing interests, so the stage was all set for machine politics and the resources were available and ripe for the picking by smart men who were opportunists.

Term Paper on Machine Politics Assignment

For example, she argues (57) that the "artisan and his shop no longer dominated the scene," and that most of the workforce in the mid-1800s could be identified as "proletarian classes" that were employed by "larger manufactures, large-scale outwork," and some factories. Is her argument successful? Bridges points out - in order to bolster her theory that class, not ethnicity, pushed machine politicians into leadership positions - that in the fifteen years between 1840 and 1855, manufacturing firms grew dramatically in terms of numbers of employees. More than 90% of the labor force working in manufacturing in 1855 worked in firms that employed ten or more employees, and 70% of workers were employed in firms that had more than 25 employees. The manufacturing sector rapidly exceeded the merchants and the small independent shop craftsmen.

It's obvious that any smart politician would benefit more from visiting a manufacturing plant where 25 to 50 voters were employed than from showing up in a "mom and pop" crafts shop. On page 59, Bridges writes that the "transformation of social structure" changed the Democratic rhetoric from political appeals to "independent mechanics" to "rallies of the 'hard-working masses.'"

While this transformation was taking place, Bridges continues, the longtime leaders of New York City, the elite members of the upper class, bowed out of political life and turned to other civic endeavors; in their place came the professional politicians, who "...were effective organizers because of their remarkable ability to relate to the inarticulate..." And in doing so "helped make the unemployed - as the working classes more generally - a political force" (122).

Along with the growth of professional politicians, forerunners to machine politics, a "boss" emerged at the top of the 1850s political pyramid. The "boss" was the new power broker, whose job it was to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Machine Politics.  (2007, February 10).  Retrieved May 10, 2021, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/machine-politics/25908

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https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/machine-politics/25908.