Discuss how America's value system influenced American industrialization in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I would suggest examining Howard Zinn's work A People's History of the United States, specifically the chapter entitled "Robber Barons and Rebels."  The idea in this chapter is that there were many elements in American society that made the industrialist able to progress as quickly and with such force that he did.  One of these elements was the social attitude that "Rich is right."  Zinn quotes an excerpt from Russell Conway, a lecturer whose book Acres of Diamonds, helps to bring this value system into full view:

I say that you ought to get rich, and it is your duty to get rich.... The men who get rich may be the most honest men you find in the community. Let me say here clearly .. . ninety-eight out of one hundred of the rich men of America are honest. That is why they are rich.

This fed very well into the value system that if people work hard and play by the rules, they can become rich and in doing so, a sense of moral superiority is evident.  This helped to influence industrialization because it helped to present capitalism as the logical outgrowth of fairness, honesty, and a sense of openness.  The value system or attitude that enabled industrialization to advance so much and with so much fervor was one that stressed wealth being good and a reflection of moral character.  The construction of American society in the late 1800s and early 1900s was predicated upon it.

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