The Industrial Revolution-Gilded Age

Historians argue that the 1890s was a transformative decade or watershed decade in American history. The Gilded age coined by Mark Twain, the idea that although things appear to be good on the surface, several problems existed underneath. Mark Twain was inferring that the United States in this period did not experience an era of prosperity and happiness, but rather an era of hardship and sadness.

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The Gilded Age was a period of intense industrialization, which focused on the development of America, as an industrial and business powered country. During The Gilded Age there were many scientific breakthroughs, social transformations and technological innovations. This era was composed of economic growth, especially in the North and West. The Gilded Age represented the rapid expansion of industrialization, expansion of the middle class, and mass production.

These new advantages only benefited upper-middle class, businesses and white men. The unskilled, uneducated, and the poor did not benefit. These improvements reinforced the faith of ordinary people in the process. Many had faith in the system but due to the growing economy and imperfect economic status, there were two economic systems that emerged.

The first is Laissez-Faire, which was developed by Adam Smith. Laissez-Faire was a belief that the government should have a hands-off approach to businesses. Laissez-Faire sought to demonstrate how the unrestricted pursuit of private gain by individuals must maximize the profit of all. This process is called the invisible hand, which lets people do as they choose. The market is not man-made or invented its the invisible hand, you want to buy it, I want to sell it.

Therefore the government cannot intervene. It describes a system or point of view that opposes regulation or interference by the government in economic affairs beyond the minimum necessary to allow the free enterprise system to operate according to its own laws. In others words, individual as a moral and economic ideal. Which means that you were responsible for yourself and that everyone starts off on the same boat. Laissez-Faire was saying that individuals should compete freely in the marketplace where people and businesses exchange goods and services.

This hands off policy by the government resulted in a weak democracy for workers. Ordinary working people did not have any power; business owners had all the power. Most people accepted that poverty and hardship were not things that the government could or should do anything about. Others believed that one competition was no doubt inequality; some would gain more than others (Week 3 Lecture Notes).

This led to Social Darwinism. During the Gilded Age, large numbers of businessmen and middle-class Americans adopted the social outlook known as Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism was a misinterpretation of how natural selection and the theory of evolution worked, that was used to justify or explain a lot of the social inequalities in this time period. Social Darwinism was used to defend inequality. More or less the conflict between social groups which results in the most socially capable or fit group coming out on top as the winner, usually in influence and wealth.

The thought that rich people would succeed and poor people would fail. Nature is entirely neutral; nature submits to him who most energetically and resolutely assails her. She grants her rewards to the fittest, therefore without to other considerations of any kind. (Sumner 35). The fittest are successful those who arent fit arent successful. To fix the inequality take from the rich and give to the poor this is called redistribution of wealth. Social Darwinism argues that youre poor because youre lazy and the penalty of being lazy is being poor. On that note, the government isnt responsible for you, taking peoples taxes is indeed keeping the un-fittest alive., In other words, dont take tax dollars and give it to people its not fair.

The growing influence of Social Darwinism helped to popularize a negative definition of freedom as limited government and an unrestrained free market. It also helped persuade courts, in the name of liberty contract to overturn state laws regulating the behavior of corporations. Inferring that if the rich gives money to the poor, which they were willing to do, but if this happens theyll destroy liberty and economic freedom. (Week 3 Lecture Notes).

The American Society was reflective of these long lasting changes. One major reflection was the working class. There were many problems associated with the working class. The working class was divided by race, religion, class and education. They lived terrible lives, nothing compared to the upper and second class. The upper-class lived a nearly perfect life. Most lived in a five-room house with a nice yard; a convenient place for children. Second-class lived with comparative comfort. Both upper and second class made enough money to support their families. However, in contrast to the working class, they were getting paid almost nothing. The wages that workers were getting paid could hardly support a family. Entire families went to work, including women. Housing presented the most serious problem. 

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The Industrial Revolution-Gilded Age. (2019, May 15). Retrieved February 3, 2023 , from

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