How did the United States change economically, socially and politically, from 1877 to 1980?

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Since this question encompasses over a century of time, the United States of course changed dramatically during the time period you are asking about.  The country became much more modern economically and socially.  Politically, there was less change overall, but new issues did become important between these two dates.

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Since this question encompasses over a century of time, the United States of course changed dramatically during the time period you are asking about.  The country became much more modern economically and socially.  Politically, there was less change overall, but new issues did become important between these two dates.

In economic terms, the United States industrialized and boomed in this time period.  In 1877, the country was really just beginning its major industrialization.  By 1980, it was coming to the end of the time when industry would drive the economy.  This time period saw the introduction of assembly line production and of Taylorism, both of which made industry much more efficient.  This allowed prices to fall and goods to become available to a broad range of consumers.  Over this time period, the US economy came to be dominated by large companies.  It also became much more technologically advanced, with machinery changing practically every sector of the economy from farming to the production of airplanes.  In these ways, the US economy changed dramatically during this century, becoming much more modernized and industrial than it had been at the beginning.

In social terms, the US of 1980 would have been almost unrecognizable to a person from 1877.  In 1877, African Americans had very few rights.  By 1980 they were legally equal and had started to become much more prominent in many areas of American life.  In 1877, women could not vote, were expected to stay home, and were subject to strict expectations about dress and behavior.  By 1980, women were not only voting but were holding office.  They were working for pay much more than ever before.  Women were now wearing bikinis to the beach and jeans to work.  Thanks to “The Pill” and the sexual revolution of the 1970s, they were much freer to engage in sex outside of marriage, just as men had always been.  In 1877, there had been few options for mass entertainment.  By 1980, there were televisions, radios, cassette players, movies, and many other types of entertainment.  American society had come to put a premium on leisure and having fun in a way that would have seemed hedonistic and indulgent to a person from 1877.  These were tremendous changes that would have made the America of 1980 seem very strange to a person from 1877.

With politics, there was perhaps less absolute change.  The same two parties that existed in 1877 still existed in 1980.  There was still a great deal of emphasis on issues of economic inequality.  Politics was also still concerned with the question of how much of a role the government should play in society.  However, there were many new issues.  Issues of minority and women’s rights (which by now included the issue of abortion) now existed which were essentially unimportant in 1877.  The two political parties in 1980 clashed over the role of the US in the world and its stance with respect to communism.  These were not issues in 1877.  While there were still arguments about how much the government should be involved in people’s lives, even conservatives accepted much more government involvement than anyone would have imagined in 1877.  In this way, while there were some similarities in the politics of these times, many new issues had arisen in 1980 that were not important in 1877.

In all of these ways, the US underwent a great deal of change between 1877 and 1980.

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