Issue IV Summary (YES)
Were Workers in the Gilded Age Conservative Capitalists?
Author: Carl Degler
Author Background: Carl Degler is a professor of American History at Stanford University. He is the former president of the American History Society and the Organization of American Historians. He is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for history. Thesis: America’s labor movement willfully accepted capitalism and acted conservatively to radical organizational changes in the economic system by corporations. •
Modern capitalism’s history revolves are the freeing of land, labor and capital from the nepotistic values of traditional medieval society •
Labor is made into commodity. It is free to flow where the factor market demands it. It is traded just like land and capital. •
Labor unions spur a sense of community for workers. The workers become more individualistic; however, labor unions offered some communal solidarity. •
The labor movement was ultimately a failure because it was too conservative and was weak against the profit-oriented social structure of the time period. •
The Knights of Labor were a complete failure. They didn’t encourage strikes, but rather promoted education, cooperation, and political. Their lack of organization ultimately doomed their existence and they lost the little bit of power they had after the 1886 Haymarket Riot •
Gomper’s business-like mentality allowed for the American Federation of Labor to prosper. It’s focus on skilled workers made it more organized and successful than other labor organizations of the time period. •
The AFL was not anti-capitalistic, in fact it promoted capitalism but wanted greater shares for the middle classes. They felt the corporations held too much of the profits. The AFL recognized private property. •
Socialism’s failure in the United States during this time period is the biggest sign of the conservatism of American labor. Socialism had formed in other counties during their industrialization; however, most...
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