Major Problems


The essays from Chapter 4 of Major Problems focus on United States’ trade expansion and economical growth in to the rest of the world. In Gail Bederman’s essay, she states that, Theodore Roosevelt sought to discipline the male body that might be discovered and proved in the course of the strenuous life. Roosevelt thought that United States should use whatever power necessary to see that their vision of democracy and justice triumphed around the globe. On the other hand, Emily Rosenberg contends that American expansion was subjected by and principles of progressive development that used the language of peace, prosperity, and democracy to promote Americanizing the world in the name of innovation. I found Bederman’s argument more effective because, she illustrates, how Theodore Roosevelt used the words “strenuous life” to influence the American men to show the rest of the world that they are the highest race then any other.


Rosenberg’s essay “Spreading the American Dream” is a great piece of work which focuses on the process by which America’s economic and cultural influence spread worldwide from the 1890s to 1945. American influence was initially the result of the efforts of exporter, industrialists, bankers, philanthropists, and journalists. During the twentieth century, federal officials increasingly became involved to organize and extend contacts begun by private initiative. What drew private and public men together was a common ideology of moderate progress. Maturing during the twentieth century, moderate progress merged the lessons of America’s own economic development with traditional liberal policy about freedom and the marketplace. The resulting beliefs elevated the unique experience of the United States into laws that many Americans thought could be applied everywhere. “Especially during and after the severe depression that began in 1893, business leaders and policymakers alike became convinced that expansion was needed to avoid overproduction and to maintain prosperity and social cohesion at home.” But, she fails to provide, some of the other variables intertwined with questions of overseas expansion and the corporate decisions that took place as a result of these variables and how those ideas found their way to the popular culture and ideas of the average American. This is to say that the connections between the liberal developmentalists and the government\'s programs supporting an open door policy do not connect with the popular ideas of the people themselves.


In contrast, Bederman argues that, Theodore Roosevelt sought to discipline the male body that might be discovered and proved in the course of the “strenuous life”. From then on, he displaced the challenges of ranch life and the western frontier onto the narrative of modernity. This Roosevelt realism was a peculiarly American discourse. The "frontier" operated like the other spaces of imperialism and colonialism, but the proof of its virtue was in the production of a manly life. Progress was not equated with more and more civilized behavior, but rather with strenuous effort. Or civilization itself became, as Bederman argues, implicated with discourses of manhood and racial prowess. The narrative of modernity equates evolutionary progress with fitness. The Roosevelt version of progress thought not in terms of reproduction of the species, but in terms of the manly striving that reproduced an American individual. “They controlled a rich and mighty continent because their superior manhood had allowed them to annihilate the Indians on the Western frontier.”


In conclusion, I find Bederman’s essay more persuasive because she proves a point that, in that time there was a race problem among Whites. They thought they were the highest race in the world by defeating the Indians and keeping Blacks under slavery. As Theodore Roosevelt believed, “that manly racial competition determined which race was superior and deserved to control the earth’s resources. A race which grew decadent then was a race which had lost the masculine strength necessary to prevail in this Darwinstic racial struggle.”