Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Second Gilded Age

   "They raped a continent and often left an irremediable natural ruin behind them. They mounted monstrous swindles and indulged in stock-robbery that, over and over, left millions of people bankrupt. They suborned public officials, they infected the White House, they bought Congressmen like sacks of potatoes, . . . stole public lands and embezzled public funds, ruthlessly attempted to suppress the aspirations of labor, made the very idea of democracy an obscene mirth, and brought the rule of law into general contempt." (Cleanth Brooks, R. W. B. Lewis, and Robert Penn Warren, American Literature: The Makers and the Making, Vol. 2 (New York, St. Martin's Press), pp. 1205-06).
    Does this sound like the rhetoric of the Occupy Movement, describing the 1% running roughshod over the 99%? Indeed it does; but it was written in 1972 and describes the American historical consensus about the United States in The Gilded Age, 1876-1915.

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