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The evolution of an urban political machine: Republican Philadelphia, 1867-1933.

McCaffery, Peter (1989) The evolution of an urban political machine: Republican Philadelphia, 1867-1933. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Abstract

The persistence of the classic duel between reform and bossism as the dominant theme in the literature on American urban politics has been subject to increasing criticism in recent years. This conflict, it is now argued, provides an inadequate framework in helping us to understand the complexity of American municipal development. While accepting that initiatives suggesting alternative ways of viewing urban politics are long overdue, such efforts, in my view, can only achieve their purpose if they are based on an accurate understanding of the role that the political machine has played in the American city. Unfortunately the consensus that prevails in the abundant literature on this political institution fails to provide just such an understanding. In particular the existing literature fails to furnish satisfactory answers to such key questions as, How do we account for the emergence of the political machine. What functions did it fulfill in the American city. To what extent did so-called "bosses" control party organisations and city governments. Which sections of the urban population supported the machine and why. The aim of this thesis is to address these questions using the Republican political machine (or "Organisation") in Philadelphia as the model for inquiry. The thesis is divided into two parts, the first of which shows that, in spite of appearances to the contrary, an over-riding cleavage between well-organised machine and reform forces did not dominate party politics in Philadelphia in the period prior to 1887. The second half argues that, contrary to received wisdom, a fully fledged political machine did not emerge as the dominant force in the government and politics of the city until the turn of the century. This development is attributed not to the influx of poor immigrants to the city, but to changes in the organisation and structure of Philadelphia's political and economic system, and the ability of the new (internally) consolidated political machine to overwhelm its (external) electoral opponents including its principal opposition the nonpartisan reform movement. It is also argued that the machine, rather than being the natural functional substitute for government that its apologists have traditionally maintained, did in fact function as a blight on the system of government in Philadelphia.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: History, United States
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/1091

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