Consider these themes of the Industrial Revolution that relate to the American Dream:
Labor—The Industrial Revolution changed forever the relationship between employers and workers. In the preindustrial economy, workers usually enjoyed highly personal relationships with their employers. The Industrial Revolution changed all that. Since labor was a key component of business overhead, employers had little compunction about cutting wages and many workers could easily find themselves facing untenable economic situations, with wages falling and prices rising. Many workers felt that their only recourse was to organize into labor unions and bargain collectively with employers.
Politics—An activist federal government had its origins in the post-Civil War era when discontent with the downside of the Industrial Revolution—the wide income gap between the rich and the poor; low pay, long hours, and unsafe factories for workers; and increasing environmental problems—increased. Out of such discontent emerged the Populist movement of the 1890s and the Progressive movement of the first two decades of the 1900s.
Social Change—The old rural, agricultural economy gave way to an economy of factories and mass production and a society in which most people lived in larger towns and cities. The Industrial Revolution also produced a large, visible working class and a new upper class of fabulously wealthy individuals. A new generation of social workers insisted that something needed to be done to improve the lives of America’s most vulnerable citizens—the poor, immigrants, working women, and children.
Source: The Industrial Revolution: Key Themes and Documents (see books)
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