How did economic changes transform the relationship between classes?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The presence of a class system has been an indelible part of American history.  There has always been a pyramid relationship between those in the position of power and everyone else.  Yet, I think that the more America endured the changes of industrialization, the hardened this structure became.  One of the transformative elements of economic changes in American society was to ensure that there was a privileged few at the top of this structure and that there were a lot more at the bottom of it.  Howard Zinn points this out in the industrialization changes that take place at the end of the 19th Century and the start of the 20th.  The Morgans, Rockefellers, and Carnegies were few and far between, while the number of laborers, workers, and those struggling to make a living were much, much more.  This reflects how economic changes transformed the relationship between the classes as one in which the people at the bottom yearned to have something like what the people the top experienced.  In the end, Zinn feels that the constant pressure to participate in what he would see as a "rigged game" helps to create a sense of resentment in the mass of lower class individuals, antagonism directed towards the upper echelon of American society.  It is here where I think that one can see how economic changes and the hardening of the socio- economic structure does much to transform the relationship between classes as one in which the bottom level of individuals feel a great deal of antagonism towards those at the top of it.