Why were corporate and governmental powers so worried about the growth of anarchist thought during the Gilded Age?

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In the late 1800s, anarchism was a new and, for many, ominous ideology. Anarchism, together with socialism, nihilism, and atheism, seemed to threaten the very foundations of Western civilization. In other words, the growth of anarchism worried not only the government and corporations but much of society in the Western world, including the United States.

Labor grievances in Gilded Age America, largely the product of real inequity, unfairness, and exploitation, contributed to the appeal of anarchism and other revolutionary ideologies. These, in turn, provided an ideological basis for strikes and other forms of resistance. For the government, the labor resistance translated to instability and the threat of social and economic breakdown. For corporations, the labor unrest could lead to concessions, such as the eight-hour workday and higher wages, which were contrary to their financial interests.

One of the most dramatic episodes of labor unrest during the Gilded Age was the Chicago Haymarket Affair of 1886, which has been studied extensively and can be explored to further probe the fears and motives of corporate and governmental powers.

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