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Lincoln Steffens, 1894
Lincoln Steffens (right) with Senator La Follette (center), with maritime labor leader Andrew Furuseth (left), circa 1915.

Joseph Lincoln Steffens (April 6, 1866 – August 9, 1936) was an American journalist, lecturer, and political philosopher, and one of the most famous practitioners of the journalistic style called muckraking.[1] He is also known for his 1921 statement, upon his return from the Soviet Union: "I have been over into the future, and it works." (Usually reprinted as "I've seen the future, and it works".) The altered version of his quote can be found on the title page of the 1933 edition of Red Virtue, written by his wife, Ella Winter.[2]

Contents

Life

Steffens was born April 6, 1866, in San Francisco and grew up in Sacramento, California. He studied in France and Germany after graduating from the University of California, where he was first exposed to what were known then as "radical" political views.

Steffens began his journalistic career at the New York Evening Post. He later on became an editor of McClure's magazine, where he became part of a celebrated muckraking trio, along with Ida Tarbell and Ray Stannard Baker.[3] He specialized in investigating government and political corruption, and two collections of his articles were published as The Shame of the Cities (1904) and The Struggle for Self-Government (1906). He also wrote The Traitor State, which criticized New Jersey for patronizing incorporation. In 1906, he left McClure's, along with Tarbell and Baker, to form The American Magazine.

In The Shame of the Cities, Steffens sought to bring about political reform in urban America by appealing to the emotions of Americans. He tried to make them feel very outraged and "shamed" by showing examples of corrupt governments throughout urban America.

In 1910 he covered the Mexican Revolution and began to see revolution as preferable to reform. In 1919, he visited the Soviet Union together with William C. Bullitt and the Swedish Communist Karl Kilbom, and Steffens developed an enthusiasm for Communism; not long after, he made his famous remark about the new Soviet government, which according to historian Richard Pipes, Steffens wrote on a train in Sweden before he had even arrived in the USSR.

His enthusiasm had soured by the time he wrote his memoirs, published in 1931. He was a member of a group that came to be known as the California Writers Project, funded by the New Deal. Some of its members were socialists or communists, while others had little formal interest in politics.

Notes

  1. ^ "Lincoln Steffens". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  2. ^ Ella Winter, Red Virtue, Victor Gollancz LTD., (1933)
  3. ^ "On The Making of McClure's Magazine". McClure's Magazine XXIV (1). November 1904. http://books.google.com/books?id=IiAAAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA107. Retrieved 2008-08-03.  

Primary sources

  • Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens (2005).
  • The Letters of Lincoln Steffens, edited by Ella Winter and Granville Hicks. 2 vol. 1938.
  • "Noodle"(2009)

Secondary sources

  • Christopher Lasch; The American Liberals and the Russian Revolution Columbia University Press, 1962
  • Justin Kaplan; Lincoln Steffens: A Biography (2004)
  • Stanley K. Schultz. "The Morality of Politics: The Muckrakers' Vision of Democracy," The Journal of American History, Vol. 52, No. 3. (Dec., 1965), pp. 527-547. in Jstor

References

  1. ^ "Lincoln Steffens". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  2. ^ Ella Winter, Red Virtue, Victor Gollancz LTD., (1933)
  3. ^ "On The Making of McClure's Magazine". McClure's Magazine XXIV (1). November 1904. http://books.google.com/books?id=IiAAAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA107. Retrieved 2008-08-03.  
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