In what ways does the novel The Flivver King, by Upton Sinclair expose the flaws of society caused by the rise of corporate powers and capitalism?

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

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The way in which Sinclair depicts Tom Shutt is quite significant.  I think that one way in which Sinclair is able to expose the flaws of society perpetuated by the rise of corporate powers and capitalism can be seen in how Tom Shutt takes action.  Tom does not embrace the lifestyle of the factory worker.  Rather, he becomes a radical and starts to initiate a union. The emergence of the United Auto Workers in the novel is one way that Sinclair makes a statement about the flaws in society.  Shutt's character demonstrates the need for workers to unionize and also shows the abuses that workers endure.  Sinclair uses this to expose social flaws that are brought on by the rise of corporate powers and capitalism.  Tom Shutt is a reminder that any society that praises industrialists like Ford and loses sight of workers' rights must be reminded that capitalist growth should not come at the cost of individual rights and dignity.  Sinclair is merely continuing an idea that he established in The Jungle regarding the ways in which society must be vigilant against the rise of unchecked capitalism and unfettered economic growth.

Sinclair pays special attention to the way in which management treats its workers.  Another way Sinclair is able to expose the flaws of society caused by the rise of capitalism is through demonstrating the ways businesses and criminal activity might bear some similarity.  Sinclair is able to show how the Ford leadership sought to put down strikes and worker advocacy through the use of violence and intimidation.  Sinclair suggests that the world of organized crime that exists outside of the Ford Company and the management tactics used to keep workers in line and in order are similar.  If society speaks out against the lawlessness of organized crime, then Sinclair suggests that the same behavior must be criticized when corporate management embodies the same tendencies.  In this way, Sinclair offers a criticism of society's flaws caused by the rise of corporate powers brought on as a result of capitalism.


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