American Exceptionalism, American Anxiety: Wages, Competition, and Degraded Labor in the Antebellum United States
Jonathan A. GlicksteinISBN: 0813921155;
The mythology of nineteenth-century American economic exceptionalism trumpeted the positive work incentives prevailing in a society of scarce labor, weak class barriers, and abundant opportunity. This ideology agreed with the optimistic vein of politicaleconomy, in which high wages went hand in hand with increased productivity. What, then, was the supposed role of poverty, the fear of poverty, and other "negative" work incentives in the era of early industrial capitalism and escalating sectional conflict over slavery? American Exceptionalism, American Anxiety examines a wide spectrum of antebellum American thought on these and related issues, including slavery and cheap immigrant and female sweated labor. Some leading American critics of slavery and "indiscriminate" poor relief suggested that "free market" compulsions of hunger and thirst were therapeutic and ennobling and by themselves elevated capitalist wage labor above chattel servitude. Others, including prominent Republican...
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