Gronlund, Laurence (1846–1899)

Laurence Gronlund was a Danish American socialist whose ideas and writings influenced various constituencies of the Populist ranks along with other American radicals, reformers, and theorists. Gronlund's socialist treatise The Co-operative Commonwealth (1884) is his most influential and best-known work. Other important books include Our Destiny (1890) and The New Economy (1898). As a result of these works, Gronlund ranks among the most influential socialist theorists of the nineteenth-century United States.

Gronlund's ideas, as expressed in the Co-operative Commonwealth, influenced American reformers and radicals. Among those whose philosophies were self-admittedly shaped by Gronlund one can find American socialist leader Eugene Debs and such Populists as Henry Demarest Lloyd and Julius Wayland. Edward Bellamy also drew heavily upon the ideas of Co-operative Commonwealth when writing his utopian novel Looking Backward in 1888.

Like Bellamy, many of the most radical Populists embraced the utopian aspects of Gronlund's socialism and set up utopian cooperative communities across the nation. The most famous of these include the Kaweah Co-operative Community in California and the Ruskin Community in Tennessee. Cooperative communities could also be found in Colorado, Mississippi, Oregon, and Texas.

Many mainstream Populists embraced his ideas of large-scale cooperative enterprises and the centrality of trade unionism to future societies. The slogan “cooperative commonwealth” subsequently became a common phrase among American Populists in the 1890s. For his part, Gronlund openly associated with the People's Party in 1892, promoting it as the only moral and truly American reform party.

Gronlund has also been credited with bringing Fabian socialism to the United States and supporting a number of political and social reforms that would ultimately shape American society. Among these, he advocated the establishment of a national department of labor and agriculture, eight-hour work days, state income taxes, government subsidies for farmers, government protection for labor unions, and public works programs for the unemployed.

Jonathan Lavon Foster

See also: Bellamy, Edward (1850–1898) ; Cooperative Commonwealth ; Debs, Eugene (1855–1926) ; Gilded Age ; Haskell, Anna Fader (1858–1942) ; Haskell, Burnette G. (1857–1907) ; Kaweah Colony ; People's Party ; Progressivism ; Socialism, Christian


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Gemorah, Solomon. “Laurence Gronlund: Utopian or Reformer?” Science and Society 33 (4): 446–458.

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Maher, P. E. “Laurence Gronlund: Contributions to American Socialism.” Western Political Quarterly 15 (4): 618–624.

Postel, Charles. The Populist Vision. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007.