1865-1914 Wealth and Poverty Gap in the United States
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A number of writers and reformers in the period 1865-1914 discussed the growing gap between wealth and poverty in the United states. Compare and contrast 3 of the following authors’ explanations for this condition and their proposals for dealing with it. A. Henry George, Progress and Poverty, b. Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward, c. Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of Wealth, d. William Graham Sumner, What Social Classes owe to Each Other, e. Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
During the period of time between 1865 and 1914, America went through a cultural revolution. The entire country changed, economically, politically, and socially. Industrialization was the leading factor in these changes. The growth of factories, industries, and cities led to urbanization, and everyone moving into the cities for jobs. Because of the large industries and the profits that the captains of industry, or “robber barons”, were making, the gap between the rich and the poor increased tremendously. This led to the growth of poverty in the cities because of the low wages and poor treatment factory workers received. Many writers began to write pieces that the public could read to understand exposing this corruption and showing what was really going on behind the scene of America’s increasing economy. Henry George, the author of Progress and Poverty, William Graham Sumner, the author of What Social Classes Owe Each Other, and Upton Sinclair, who wrote The Jungle, used their writing and works of literature to portray their different viewpoints of how this corruption could be overturned, and they all agreed that something had to be done.
These novels were used to display problems within America and propose ways to fix them. The ideas of the authors are all very different in comparison. Even though the ideas and views that the works contain are very different from each other, the novels all had a similar result and the authors who wrote them had similar ideas for doing so. Henry George, William Graham Sumner and Upton Sinclair wrote their famous works to get the truth out to the public and expose the problems that were occurring because of the industrialization period. These books provoked society to make rules and regulations in factories and attempts to improve the economic gap such as increasing worker wages which ultimately were not completely successful. Many other writers in this time period used yellow journalism, journalism that is based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration, to expose problems in America and get their views out their on how to fix them.
Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was written from a different perspective than the other two works. The Jungle portrays the lives of immigrants and was written to expose the corruption occurring in the factories of the meat packing industry. The novel depicts, in harsh tones, poverty, the absence of social programs, unpleasant living and working conditions, and the hopelessness prevalent among the working class, which is contrasted with the deeply-rooted corruption on the part of those in power. This book was used more as a tool to get society to know of the corruption and encourage them to work to solve the corruption problems and the economic problems.
William Graham Sumner had a different idea. In his work What the Social Classes Owe Each Other, he saw that the assumption of group obligation was destined to be the force behind clear social management in the future. He said that “Capital owes labor, the rich owe the poor, producers owe consumers, one sex owes another, one race owes another, this country owes that country, and so on and infinitum.” He believed that the gap problem could be easily solved with state intervention and group cooperation.
During the time period 1865-1914, a huge surge towards industrialization occurred in America. This change to America becoming a more industrialized nation had effects on other aspects of the country other than just the economy. A large increase in urbanization occurred, leading to over population in the cities. Because of the large industries and the profits that the captains of industry were making, the gap between the rich and the poor increased tremendously. Poverty was becoming very common in the cities because of the low wages and poor treatment factory workers received. To expose this corruption, many writers wrote pieces that the public could read to understand what was really going on behind the scene of America’s increasing economy. Henry George, the author of Progress and Poverty, William Graham Sumner, the author of What Social Classes Owe Each Other, and Upton Sinclair, who wrote The Jungle, all believed that serious reconstruction was needed to fix the increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor and used their works of literature to express their different views on how to do so.