The Middle Class – The 20th century and the rise of labor

Continuing on in the vein of the concept of the “middle class” that politicians and pundits love to banter about. Prior episodes highlighted the rift between the nobles and the serfs that gave rise to the powerful merchant and professional class that was the genesis of the “middle class”.

The formation of the United States, a representational, constitutional republic without a monarchy, was the start of a bold experiment. There was no “official” noble class, but there was recognition that the vote would be tied to “landed” persons (men) who would benevolently choose leaders for the masses.

A nice theory.

Early power was concentrated in the large landholders (often plantation owners in the south, hence the importance of slavery as an institution being enshrined in the Constitution.) But as the industrial revolution played out, money, and with it power shifted to industrial centers in the northeast and midwest. The great equalizer was the development of the railroads. Production no longer needed to be in proximity of the consumers. Pennsylvania became known for steel production with raw ore coming from the iron mines of Minnesota via the great lakes, and coal from Appalachia. Chicago, almost dead center in the country was a way station, and the stockyards that fed the country.

New York gave rise to the financial institution, concentrating power and money in the world’s largest city.

(note: there is a lot of simplification in this portrayal)

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The Middle Class – The Industrial Revolution

The last post I explored the rise of the talented, educated professional and how their roots were in the guild system. This time, I will start with the industrial revolution, and how that upended the rising of that middle class.

The Industrial Revolution

While the shift from craft based manufacture of goods was well underway in the mid 18th century, the trend accelerated mightily with the development and commercialization of the steam engine.

{A whole book or series of books on the use of steam motive power to drive machines that wove, milled, pressed, etc. Very germane to the topic, but obvious in hindsight, it will be ignored for this brief treatment}

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