American Exceptionalism, American Anxiety: Wages, Competition and Degraded Labor in the Antebellum United States by Jonathan A. Glickstein (Hardback, 2002)
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- DescriptionThe mythology of nineteenth-century American ecomic 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 political ecomy, 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 enbling and by themselves elevated capitalist wage labor above chattel servitude. Others, including prominent Republican proponents of the mythology of rthern American exceptionalism, tied the legitimacy of capitalist wage labor to the hireling's ability to commodify his labor to his own advantage. Distinct from both these groups were labor-reform critics who insisted both that capitalists were finding starvation wages sufficiently labor-inducing and that the lash of poverty demoralized and crushed, rather than enbled, rthern wage laborers. Glickstein pays particular attention to neglected early nineteenth-century debates over the circumstances under which the allure to employers of cheap or otherwise servile labor trumped the supposed superior productivity of more generously compensated, respectable free labor. In probing Republican commentators' paradoxical fear that rthern white labor could t withstand competition from inferior slave labor, for example, he challenges the still-dominant characterization of Republican Party free-labor ideology as an optimistic, self-confident creed. In the course of exploring the dark side of antebellum American labor ideologies, Glickstein engages some of the most significant issues in antebellum historiography, including the market revolution, the linguistic turn, whiteness as an axis of self-identity, and bourgeois ideological hegemony.
- Author BiographyJonathan A. Glickstein is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of Concepts of Free Labor in Antebellum America.
- Author(s)Jonathan A. Glickstein
- PublisherUniversity of Virginia Press
- Date of Publication30/09/2002
- SubjectRegional History
- Place of PublicationCharlottesville
- Country of PublicationUnited States
- ImprintUniversity of Virginia Press
- Content Noteindex
- Weight748 g
- Width156 mm
- Height235 mm
- Spine33 mm
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