Lawrence Frederick Kohl explores the political swagger of the 1830s and 1840s. The author seeks to place what Democrats and Whigs said in a psychological context. He dispute that those Americans who were cozy with the self-interested relationships of a market society became Whigs, while those who remained more wary of modernity and were more custom constrained joined the Democrats. Kohl successfully places the conversation between Whigs and Jacksonian democrats in a conceptual framework. He compares the Jacksonian view of the world, i.e., and an apprehensive verge upon to transform. On the contrary what Whig viewed was a forward-looking and welcomed change. Even though one may disagree with the author’s discernment of the Jacksonian worldview, Kohl has does a remarkable job of recording his case. He contrasts major parts of the Whig and Jacksonian approach to clique and social policy.
One of the many quality of Kohl’s critique is that it imply a way to reunite our rather split understanding of the relationship between social change and political agendas in the Jacksonian era. However, Kohl is at his weakest when he retreats to psychologizing to fit obviously opposing or contradictory conditions into his thesis. But for the most part Kohl’s explication is impressive and imposing. In the fifty years ensuing the Revolution, America’s population almost quadrupled, its boundaries extended, industrialization took root in the Northeast, new ways of transportation prospered, state banks proliferated and offered easy funds to eager entrepreneurs, and Americans found themselves in the middle of an heightening age of personality, equality, and self-reliance. To the Jacksonian age group, it looked as if their world had changed virtually overnight.
“Lawrence Frederick Kohl’s book, The Politics of Individualism is at once an account of America’s political turmoil in the Jacksonian era and an interpretation of the relationship of these political views to the psychological nature of the American citizen during the era. In this account of the Jacksonian era, the reader is able to recognize the framework for the politics which will dominate the nineteenth century.” (Ben McAninch, 2002)
‘The Politics of Individualism’ looks at the political demonstrations of these agitating social transformations during the 1830s and 1840s. Americans were exhausted by politics and party loyalties were vehement. The American republic was once again in danger. This time the impending doom lied not in internal disorder or foreign predators but in the coexisting crisis of professionalism and careerism that dominated American politics. Those exigencies polluted the possibility for political representation in America and endangered the promise of democratic government. Kohl draws on the political rhetoric found in speeches, newspapers, periodicals, and pamphlets to place the Democrats and the Whigs in a solid social and subjective accessory. He debate that the political division between these two parties meditated the division between Americans unstable by the new individualistic social order and those whose character admitted them to struggle more firmly within it. Democrats were more tradition-directed, restricted in more personal ways. Whigs, on the other hand, were more thoughtful and adopted the impersonal, self-interested relationships of a market society. By inquiring this interesting dialogue of parties, Kohl brings us bright new understanding into the politics and people of Jacksonian America.
In the last decade of the 20th century, mounting indication of the professionalization of American politics is just beginning to sting the regard of pundits and citizens alike. That experience and its connection to traditional republican thought are discussed at length for the intent of moving contemporary argument about term limitation away from allegation and severity around the principles and ambition of representative democracy. The revolutionary, anti-Federalist, and Jacksonian defenses of rotation in office have much to teach anyone curious in the professionalization of American politics and its consequence and likely solution. Lawrence Frederick Kohl’s review of the worldviews transferred through bravado is sensitive, even sparkling.
McAninch, Ben, “My Photo Album: The Truth Hurts”, Overheard at University College London, 2002/05/26,