The winds of change: The progressive movement and the bureaucratization of thrift

Heather A. Haveman, Hayagreeva Rao, Srikanth Paruchuri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Citations (SciVal)


This article examines how the values espoused by social movements become entrenched in political culture and spawn many new kinds of institutions, which in turn shape organizations far from movements' original targets. We demonstrate the diffuse and indirect effects of social movements, and also show that the diffusion of social-movement values is often selective - some are retained, while others are discarded. Our empirical site is the Progressive movement and the early thrift industry in California. We draw on social-movement research and organizational theory to argue that a new ideal of thrift, bureaucratized cooperation among strangers, replaced the original idea of thrift, friendly cooperation among neighbors. This shift was possible only after the modernizing temper of Progressivism gave rise to two institutions, the news media and role-model organizations, that made bureaucracy culturally appropriate. The bureaucratization of thrift occurred even though it resulted in a centralization of power, which clashed with the Progressive ideal of equitably distributing power. Our study provides a compelling example of the fundamental revolution in American social organization in the twentieth century: the replacement of community-based groups by bureaucracies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-142
Number of pages26
JournalAmerican sociological review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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