This study of the emergence of machine politics in New York City
during the antebellum years sheds light on the origins of a system
that was the characteristic form of government in United States
cities from the mid-nineteenth until well into the twentieth
century. In contrast to previous explanations that have found the
origins of machine politics in immigrant culture and ethnic
conflict, Professor Bridges shows that central elements of the
system long predated a significant immigrant presence. Her analysis
focuses on two large-scale transformations in the American
political economy that occurred during these years:
industrialization, which reorganized the social order and provoked
conflict and change; and the extension of the franchise through the
abolition of property barriers, which necessitated the
incorporation of 'the many' into political life. It was this unique
combination of circumstances, the author argues, that provided the
context for the development of machine politics.
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