Chapter

Race and the Emancipation of Labor

Carol A. Horton

in Race and the Making of American Liberalism

Published in print September 2005 | ISBN: 9780195143485
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199850402 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195143485.003.0004
Race and the Emancipation of Labor

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Anti-caste and Darwinian liberalism were not the only important civic discourses in late 19th-century America. Another important alternative was producer republicanism, which argued that the new form of corporate capitalism that had developed in the wake of the Civil War had so undermined the economic bases of citizenship that it threatened to destroy the foundation of the American republic. The rapid growth of corporate capital, republicans asserted, had divided American society into two great classes marked by enormous disparities of wealth and power. Within the labor movement, an organization known as the Knights of Labor represented producer republicanism's most powerful expression, particularly during the Knights' period of greatest strength in the early to mid-1880s. Its most important counterpart in the agrarian sphere was Populism. Although neither the labor nor the agrarian movement was able to attain national political power and implement the majority of the legal and policy reforms that they advocated, their size and prominence nonetheless made them an important part of late 19th-century American politics.

Keywords: America; producer republicanism; labor movement; agrarian movement; liberalism; Knights of Labor; Populism; politics; corporate capitalism

Chapter.  14035 words. 

Subjects: US Politics

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