The end of the Civil War brought about political and economic reform to the United States. Reforms in the Reconstruction Period were passed to foster and maintain economic activity, creating industries and expanding businesses, contributing to the boom of Industrial Revolution in the country. Years of political clout and debate remarkably laundered constitutional amendments for the black man’s rights (Oberholtze, 1917). Inventions paved the way to the development of new industries such as telecommunication, transportation, electricity and construction.
The discovery, access to and processing of raw materials -facilitated by technology- allowed products to be transported from manufacturing factories to populated areas for distribution. Such enterprise development measures were supported by the improvement of the transport and communication system via paved roads, bridges, canals, railroads and the telegraph. New jobs were created to cater to the needs of the fast growing economy and population. Enormous infrastructures were built to accommodate the growing city dwellers and workers.
Increase in profits of manufacturing industries encouraged a steady influx of immigrants working in the production lines (Engerman, 2000). Competition and increasing market goals forced companies to expand trade and operations in other countries, imperialism’s objective. Altogether, technological advancement, cheap labor and availability of capital led to America’s heavy industrialization. This period of rise and fall largely contributed to America’s development into a superpower. However, as a young nation, America was set back with undesirable impacts of industrialization.
As production staff volume increased, conflict between workers and management grew. Industrial achievements due to aggressive marketing of manufactured goods and increased foreign trade introduced more white collar jobs facilitating corporate operations. Management and administrative work were better rewarded than assembly-line work, providing better opportunities for educated and powerful who came to enjoy lucrative lifestyles; while creating inequalities of wealth, discontent and rousing uprisings from laborers who formed unions to pursue their rights.
Marxist leaders helped reshape capitalist thought and corporate laws. Growing market demand meant increasing supply needs leading to resource exploitation in some areas leaving irreparable damage to the environment. Concern for increased production overshadowed the seemingly abundant resources. Even large corporations who came to have leverage in policy-making used their power to generate more profit. Developments in transportation made it easy for people to move about creating a melting pot of US residents and migrants, gave way to explosion of population in urban areas, forming cities.
The attraction of immigrants made uprisings in social injustices -competition and aggression- between old American settlers versus the new immigrants. Urban legislators targeted services to win the votes of increasing foreign workers maligning the democratic electoral process. Too aggressive amassing and building of wealth and power triggered the economic crash of 1873 when the government’s major investment bank, financer of government reconstruction loans and the Northern Pacific Railroad, crashed (Bancroft, 1902).
For many years, new business management styles were practiced by corporations, every time cleaning up failed ventures with hopefully better alternatives. Many times, the finance and investment sector failed but lessons were dealt with outmost concern for capital and development-oriented sources. As population grew in cities, people moved to occupy the western territories. Development gradually followed increasing the number of states joining the union.
At the same time, America had growing concern for the rapid growth of the British Empire. Following British example, America colonized territories and expanded the home base and also the market for its produce. American industrialists pushed for westward progression, integrating the continent-wide unified market reducing production cost and increasing value per output of production enabling American working class to earn higher than counterparts across the globe.
Higher wage was initially purported by higher bid of wage levels experienced in the pre-industrialization era using slave-labor and eventually sustained by capitalism during the reconstruction period despite the increase in laborers and economic conflict many years after. Nevertheless, the labor force and farmers suffered greatly being dependent on businesses that supported their sources of income (McElvaine, 1993). The years of depression was a roller coaster ride for most corporate giants who still reap the most benefit even during economic downfall.
During World War I, America tapped the international market (McElvaine, 1993). They penetrated into countries that did not have resources for food production. US production increased to cater to the needs of incapacitated economies. With its strong capitalist foundation, the US took advantage of World War I devastation across Europe and Japan (Olson, 1988). Forced to reduce trade barriers, Europe, Japan and their colonies were opened to globalization, with efforts initiated by American powers. Development of farm machinery automated farming practices and increased US production.
The US became the world’s foremost producer of agricultural products in power economies like Europe and Japan were destroyed. The downside, farmers became all the more dependent on new businesses offering loans, transportation, equipment manufacturers and middle men who facilitated crop entry into international markets. Though, when the war ended, competition became stiff forcing America to make internal changes to beef up industrial efforts. This led to the development of advertising and marketing strategies encouraging people to consume.
People wanted to get away from the prolonged depression and rode with the bandwagon, buying what advertisers offered. A mass culture of consumerism proliferated. This was made possible even for people who would not afford through the credit system, promoting instant access to commodities and luxuries and deferring payment with terms (McElvaine, 1993). Many US bankers reached across the globe and lent European countries for post war reconstruction. Economic instability after war did not go along US banks’ objectives and increased the risk of non-payment of loans.
This would eventually lead to the Great Depression affecting businesses and communities worldwide. The entire financial industry suffered leading to property and business closures (Olson, 1988). The imposition of higher taxes on imports caused local markets to patronize locally manufactured goods. However, other countries retaliated by imposing high taxes on US exports, resulting in less foreign trade profits and eventually less power in international market penetration (McElvaine, 1993). The growing rate in stocks investment of major industrial companies caught the attention of many.
Stock buying became a trend, relying in the belief that this will make people rich. The Stock Market Crash of 1929 marked the domino economic disruption made vulnerable by unequal distribution of wealth and banking problems. Renewed global strategy in achieving international trade through humanitarian and democratic efforts became America’s initiative to promote global security. Priority was also given to secure citizens through provision of social welfare. State-governed economic planning organized nationwide industrial regulations to propel the rise from the Depression.
Powerful American businesses have lobbied for rights in exploring resources in other countries despite conservative and anti-colonialism proponents in US government limited US economic expansion. However, open trading between economies leveled the playing field in production and markets. The Progressive Era marked a turning point of US imperial power into a more humanist and democratic torch bearer in an effort to resolve the problems and issues brought about by industrialization and urbanization. Leaders focused on long-term goals, core values and implementation of development programs.
Reformists, including President Franklin Roosevelt in the New Deal, sought to end monopolies, destroy political corruption and lessen the gap between the affluent and poor. Through the New Deal, authorized nationwide assistance to socio-economic development of individuals. Agencies were set up to provide employment, regulate mortgage and housing conditions, administered social security, consumer rights and raised funding for education, food and drug safety. Concerns of the working and business class were brought together (Mintz, 2006).
Progressive ideologies affected political, social and cultural movements in the local and eventually made impacts on international human rights revolution and the initiation of international governing bodies to secure international relations in politics and economics. Radical changes in international standards and relationships were fostered. The UN and the NATO was founded in 1945 and 1948, respectively. The US became stronger despite its diversity. Operation Breadbasket was launched to increase employment of cultural minorities.
From its indistinguishable character, America’s economic, social and technological transformation continues to awe the world. Today, its mandate for democracy and freedom still thrive and inspire other nationalities.
Bancroft, H. (1902). The Financial Panic of 1837. The Great Republic By the Master Historians Vol. III. Retrieved 11-5-2008 from http://www. publicbookshelf. com/public_html/The_Great_Republic_By_the_Master_Historians_Vol_III/thepanic_ce. html Engerman, S. and K. Sokoloff. (2000). Technology and Industrialization, 1790-1914.
In The Cambridge Economic History of the United States, Vol. II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. McElvaine, R. S. (1993). The Great Depression: America 1929-1941. Three Rivers Press. Mintz, S. (2006). Learn About the Progressive Era. Digital History. Retrieved 11-5-2008 from http://www. digitalhistory. uh. edu/modules/progressivism/index. cfm. Oberholtze, E. (1917). A History of the United States since the Civil War, Vol. 1. Macmillan. Olson, J. (1988). from World War I to the New Deal, 1919-1933. Historical dictionary of the 1920s. New York : Greenwood Press.
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