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A classic examination of the roots of corporate culture, newly revised and updated for the twenty first century Alan Trachtenberg presents a balanced analysis of the expansion of capitalist power in the last third of the nineteenth century and the cultural changes it brought in its wake. In America's westward expansion, labor unrest, newly powerful cities, and newly mechan A classic examination of the roots of corporate culture, newly revised and updated for the twenty first century Alan Trachtenberg presents a balanced analysis of the expansion of capitalist power in the last third of the nineteenth century and the cultural changes it brought in its wake. In America's westward expansion, labor unrest, newly powerful cities, and newly mechanized industries, the ideals and ideas by which Americans lived were reshaped, and American society became more structured, with an entrenched middle class and a powerful business elite. Here, in an updated edition which includes a new introduction and a revised bibliographical essay, is a brilliant, essential work on the origins of America's corporate culture and the formation of the American social fabric after the Civil War.


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A classic examination of the roots of corporate culture, newly revised and updated for the twenty first century Alan Trachtenberg presents a balanced analysis of the expansion of capitalist power in the last third of the nineteenth century and the cultural changes it brought in its wake. In America's westward expansion, labor unrest, newly powerful cities, and newly mechan A classic examination of the roots of corporate culture, newly revised and updated for the twenty first century Alan Trachtenberg presents a balanced analysis of the expansion of capitalist power in the last third of the nineteenth century and the cultural changes it brought in its wake. In America's westward expansion, labor unrest, newly powerful cities, and newly mechanized industries, the ideals and ideas by which Americans lived were reshaped, and American society became more structured, with an entrenched middle class and a powerful business elite. Here, in an updated edition which includes a new introduction and a revised bibliographical essay, is a brilliant, essential work on the origins of America's corporate culture and the formation of the American social fabric after the Civil War.

30 review for The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael D.

    Alan Trachtenberg’s The Incorporation of America argues that the rise of corporatization— the hierarchical, managed structure of the corporate world—in the Gilded Age fundamentally restructured American culture in ways that were deeply antipodean to the nation’s cultural past causing cultural conflict on a number of fronts. The book begins by looking at a number of myths that arose in the wake of the rise of business. In the first chapter, Trachtenberg explores the myth of the West as “an emblem Alan Trachtenberg’s The Incorporation of America argues that the rise of corporatization— the hierarchical, managed structure of the corporate world—in the Gilded Age fundamentally restructured American culture in ways that were deeply antipodean to the nation’s cultural past causing cultural conflict on a number of fronts. The book begins by looking at a number of myths that arose in the wake of the rise of business. In the first chapter, Trachtenberg explores the myth of the West as “an emblem of national coherence” in a “time of disunity.” In this interpretation, The Dawes Act was an attempt to incorporate Native Americans, who did not fit into the myth of the West. This myth served to obscure the reality of the West as a feeding ground for corporate industrial expansion. In the second chapter, Trachtenberg examines the rise of mechanization, which, when combined with the myth of the West, came to represent progress. The pace of technological innovation contributed to the sense of helplessness, uncertainty, and disquieting flux caused by the cyclical economy, primarily its downturn in the 1870s. Americans sought to come to grips with mechanization through organizing, but also through fiction and folklore. Myths about the virtue of productivity and progress and metaphorical relations with mechanization obscured the evils of the reality of rapid mechanization and incorporation, including such un-American features as increased social stratification and decreased individual autonomy. For Trachtenberg, the railroad, which established time zones without legislation, is the perfect example of the power of the combination of incorporation and mechanization. Incorporation also institutionalized knowledge and fragmented it through specialization. Yet, this was obscured by the myth of Edison, who, in reality, was not a throwback to Benjamin Franklin but the beginnings of modern industrial research. The end result was significant changes in the distribution of knowledge and mechanized mode of thought. Chapter 3 interprets the struggle between labor and capital in these years as a cultural conflict and the result of fundamentally different views of the meaning of America and “American values.” The onset of consolidated wealth through incorporation and its attendant and unprecedented social stratification created opposing, class-specific conceptions of those values. Most importantly, in this fight over values, the state came down on the side of capital to the point of inflicting violence on its own citizens. This conflict gave rise to the idea of the collective voice; the corporation spoke as a voice which evaded liability in contrast with the unions, whose culture developed as a conscious alternative to the culture of competitive individualism, of acquisitiveness and segregation. Chapter 4 explores the role of the city in further entrenching American incorporation. As the city grew, it began to swallow up the countryside, that repository of individualism and virtue, which became a “market colony” of the city, the seat of corporate cultural imperialism. The home, the workplace, and the marketplace became incorporated into the urban network designed for production and consumption. This design included strict class segregation and constant visibility of the symbols of the new corporate order, most notably, the department store. The department store and the urban marketplace in general, with the help of advertising, which sought to obfuscate the relationship between production and consumption. As the most visible social expression of the relations between capital and labor, the great city came to embody the reciprocal (Marxian) relations between production and consumption in their most acute form. Consumption emerged as the hidden purpose of cities. In chapter 5, Trachtenberg explores the corporate class’s attempt to impose downward its cultural hegemony. Believing high culture could be mass-produced and refashioned for the middle class as the “official American version of reality,” it was seen as a means of control. At the same time, populism arose as a reaction to the corporate control of politics, but it was swallowed up in the deep swaths cut by ethnic and religious diversity. Again, Trachtenberg sees political conflict in this period as a struggle over the soul of the American Self. Chapter 6 explores the Realism movement in painting and literature and chapter 7 examines the cultural symbolism of the White City at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. This is an impressive work in many ways. First, not only is its conception of culture broad, so is its application. Trachtenberg examines everything from politics and business to painting and literature, from dime store novels to the World’s Fair, from urban planning to advertising. The book’s scope is, quite simply, impressive, as is Trachtenberg’s analysis. He shows how incorporation was a structural cultural phenomenon. Furthermore, he shows how despite its attempts at consolidation, it fostered cultural conflict in various political, economic, and cultural arenas, most fundamentally between labor and capital. Trachtenberg also illustrates how the broader uncertainty and upheaval of social, political, and economic relations manifested itself in popular culture. Finally, it demonstrates how incorporation and the rise of corporate culture changed the way Americans viewed themselves, their country, and their world. But, in the end, this is a book about the death of the original American ideology. Though the political death of Jeffersonian republicanism, which was built on individualism, widespread property-holding, equality, and suspicion of concentrated wealth and unproductivity, had occurred decades earlier, its, perhaps more important, cultural death occurred in the Gilded Age at the hands of incorporation. This is both ironic and tragic in two ways. First, as Secretary of State in the early 1790s, Jefferson fought against the nation’s first significant act of incorporation, the first Bank of the United States, but then acquiesced to renewing its charter during his presidency. Second, in 1800, Jefferson had emerged the victor in the winner-take-all-sweepstakes that was a struggle over the identity and future vision of America with Federalist corporatist, Alexander Hamilton. But more than a half century after their deaths, the battle over the American identity and future would be fought again and this time Jefferson would lose by proxy. The first time around, Jefferson’s populism proved the key to his success, but the second time around it simply was not enough. This contrast draws out how by the end of the nineteenth century corporate culture displaced the republican culture of the founding and of Lincoln, perhaps the last major political figure representative of the Jeffersonian tradition, whose own Republican Party assisted in its downfall.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Illiterate

    Incorporation is a metaphor resting on reductionist foundations, but it supports well-worked details.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    I don't share the author's clearly socialist sympathies, but this book really defines the strengths and possibilities of cultural history. In a series of thoughtfully-constructed and highly readable chapters, Trachtenberg explains how nearly all elements of late 19th-century American life -- everything from U.S. government policy regarding Western land and resources, to labor unions, to architecture, and beyond -- meshed together to support the emerging corporate capitalist order. Truly fascinat I don't share the author's clearly socialist sympathies, but this book really defines the strengths and possibilities of cultural history. In a series of thoughtfully-constructed and highly readable chapters, Trachtenberg explains how nearly all elements of late 19th-century American life -- everything from U.S. government policy regarding Western land and resources, to labor unions, to architecture, and beyond -- meshed together to support the emerging corporate capitalist order. Truly fascinating stuff, and a must-read for students specializing in the history of the Gilded Age. 4.5 stars.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    This is an early (well, mid year) front runner for best book I've read all year. It is also one of the first books I've read that I purchased solely based on an Amazon.com recommendation. Kudos to you Amazon.com, faceless computer program you may be, but you DO recommend good books. I'm quite sure I could have lived the entire rest of my life and never had any one recommend this book to me in causal (or non-casual) conversation. Trachtenburg, a Professor of American Studies, picks up where author This is an early (well, mid year) front runner for best book I've read all year. It is also one of the first books I've read that I purchased solely based on an Amazon.com recommendation. Kudos to you Amazon.com, faceless computer program you may be, but you DO recommend good books. I'm quite sure I could have lived the entire rest of my life and never had any one recommend this book to me in causal (or non-casual) conversation. Trachtenburg, a Professor of American Studies, picks up where authors like Leo Marx and Henry Nash Smith left off: Trying to analyze the ways in which America became the nation it is today. Like Smith in "Virgin Land" and Marx in "The Machine in the Garden", Trachtenberg ranges across disciplines (literature, economics, sociology, etc.) to develop a nuanced thesis. Although he approaches his thesis ellipitcally (in true American Studies fashion), it is hard to deny the power of his observations. In its simplest terms, Trachtenberg attempts to show the way in which the corporation became the dominant force in shaping American identity. Importantly, he does not treat this development as a foregone conclusion. THrought the book, he develops the idea of a counter definition of America, one that draws on the tradition of Indian culture and American Populism, to show how much the corporation had to overcome in order to dominate America's definition of itself. Along the way, he tackles not only the history of the corporation itself, but the way business took over the political system and the way corporate america co-opted the artistic elite. It is this last observation, which Trachtenberg describes via his incredible analysis of the "White City" at the Chicago World's Fair, that I found most revelatory.

  5. 5 out of 5

    DoctorM

    A classic look at the changes in American society during the 1870s--- the years of Twain's "Gilded Age", the the years of railway expansion and labour violence and the emergence of the corporation as a key feature of the American economy. Trachtenberg looks at the shifting of meaning within the American view of labour--- the ways in which the pre-1865 Republican ideal of "free labour", the ideal of the autonomous skilled labourer who would one day be a proprietor and a property owner was replace A classic look at the changes in American society during the 1870s--- the years of Twain's "Gilded Age", the the years of railway expansion and labour violence and the emergence of the corporation as a key feature of the American economy. Trachtenberg looks at the shifting of meaning within the American view of labour--- the ways in which the pre-1865 Republican ideal of "free labour", the ideal of the autonomous skilled labourer who would one day be a proprietor and a property owner was replaced by a view of "labour" as wage work, done by an unskilled and often foreign (i.e., menacing) lower class. Trachtenberg also looks at the ways in which the old, Emersonian sense of American promise was replaced by the fear amongst older elites that "republican virtue" and Protestant ascendancy would be replaced by a "European" world of urban class conflict. The book was pertinent enough in the early 1980s, and it's all the more worth reading now.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ernie

    While a touch dry at moments, and oddly organized, Trachtenberg gives a nuanced, in-depth look at the culture and ideas of the early decades of 20th century America. A classic of cultural history.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dan Gorman

    Excellent collection of essays on the Gilded Age and the United States's transition from a regional to a national, industrialized economy. Trachtenberg captures the effects of incorporation throughout society. In rough sequence, industrialization led to the need for more raw materials, the rise of private corporations with shareholders, the proliferation of such corporations, the standardization of time, the government's favorable business connections under successive Republican presidents, the Excellent collection of essays on the Gilded Age and the United States's transition from a regional to a national, industrialized economy. Trachtenberg captures the effects of incorporation throughout society. In rough sequence, industrialization led to the need for more raw materials, the rise of private corporations with shareholders, the proliferation of such corporations, the standardization of time, the government's favorable business connections under successive Republican presidents, the shift from Americans laboring at home to consuming goods from stores, and the first efficiency experts. A variety of cultural responses ensued. Bourgeois Americans championed their corporations while still clinging to some Victorian beliefs, particularly edifying entertainments and the patriarchal family. Wealthy women became active in museums, but their talk of spreading art to the working and middle classes belied the elite standards of taste encoded within museums. Others flocked to the Chautauqua movement, which mixed lectures and rustic activities to forge a middlebrow and middle-class identity, linking republicanism and industrial progress. Still other Americans, upset with the trend of industrialization, withdrew into antimodern art and spiritualism. Workers joined the Knights of Labor, American Federation of Labor, the Farmers' Alliances, and the People's Party, pursuing varied reform (or revolutionary approaches). Overall, Trachtenberg makes the persuasive claim that incorporation dominated the Gilded Age, but the transformation of the economy provoked strong pushback. This book illuminates the major cultural cleavages of a tumultuous age. Good for classroom use, general introduction to the Gilded Age, and Ph.D. studies (when read in concert with the works of Jackson Lears, Richard Bensel, and Warren Susman, to name a few historians).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    The sweeping changes in technology, society, politics, and business in the latter half of the nineteenth century are fairly obvious to most observers and well-trodden in the historiography. However, Alan Trachtenberg's The Incorporation of America provides fresh insight into the period through his study of culture, with specific attention to the tension between the cultural impetus of the lower class as opposed to the middle and upper classes. Trachtenberg's main contention is that the growing n The sweeping changes in technology, society, politics, and business in the latter half of the nineteenth century are fairly obvious to most observers and well-trodden in the historiography. However, Alan Trachtenberg's The Incorporation of America provides fresh insight into the period through his study of culture, with specific attention to the tension between the cultural impetus of the lower class as opposed to the middle and upper classes. Trachtenberg's main contention is that the growing number and power of large corporations tore America away from its familiar values, and these changes manifested themselves sharply in cultural elements of society. This clearly generated significant opposition. At stake in this cultural conflict was the very definition of the word “America” itself, as opposing classes and interests struggled not only over the reality of their nation but over who was allowed to define it. Trachtenberg begins his study with Frederick Jackson Turner's frontier thesis. The untamed West was a symbol of American values, Thomas Jefferson's agrarian ideal, and the rugged individualism that the frontier encouraged. Although Trachtenberg notes that this picture was an idealization, many Americans believed in the concept. As the nation spread into this land, which quickly became mapped by the government and viewed as a source of raw materials by corporate business interests, many Americans had a sense of losing something special, something defining. However, seen another way, this spread was viewed as progress: the taming of the land and the spread of American values that promised to incorporate the Wild West into the system of the East. A large part of this displacement was technological expansion. Machinery itself became a contradictory symbol. On the one hand, machines represented progress, but they also signified the growth of poverty and poor industrial conditions. Trachtenberg conducts a useful study of contemporary science fiction and utopian literature to demonstrate these inherent contradictions. He is also quick to draw attention to the very tangible effects of a technological boom on societal structures. For example, the creation of time zones and the links forged between education and industry work to transform previous social norms into a new mechanical age. Of particular interest is Trachtenberg's discussion of the city – especially the advent of the metropolis – as a cultural and transformative object unto itself. The book explains how the growth and the sheer novelty of large, dense cities tended to shroud them in mystery. Reformers sought to redeem the cities, perceiving them as a negative influence on society. These attempts were connected to evangelicalism and a genuine desire to protect citizens. Trachtenberg connects them directly to the colonial ideal of the “city on a hill,” which in some cases became a literal goal. As cities grew, rural areas necessarily declined, partly through sheer population migration but also through changing power dynamics which placed rural areas as dependent entities, useful only as sources of raw materials. Trachtenberg also notes how cities transformed culture, making Americans into spectators of experiences through advertising, newspapers, and communications technology. He provides an interesting characterization of department stores as providing for consumerism while simultaneously teaching Americans how their purchases should be categorized and prioritized into a new cosmopolitan lifestyle. The book also emphasizes the irony that the products of labor are essentially packaged and sold back to the laborers in an unrecognizable form. All of this creates a sense of detachment, clearly distinct from former ways of small town life. Chapter five is the key piece of the entire work, in which Trachtenberg examines the rise of “culture” as both a unifying and divisive force. A massive increase in the arts through institutions such as museums, concert halls, and theaters was a direct attempt to infuse middle class values (which include a tinge of nativist sentiment) that serve as a corrective, restorative (or pacifying) force on a changing society. Trachtenberg here links his work directly with Robert Weibe's influential work The Search for Order (1967) by noting the status anxiety that motivated the middle class. For some, the goal of culture is to pull the lower classes out of their vulgarity. However, while the artistic trend of realism embraced such “low” lifestyles, the lower classes remained wedded to their own cultural tastes, represented by dime novels and the type of literature that some thought would prove destructive to the youth or to society as a whole. With politics becoming increasingly tied to business interests, populism gained traction, especially in rural areas. These forces competed to define the type of nation that America was and should be moving forward. Trachtenberg's use of the Chicago World's fair in 1894 as a symbol for this competition is potent. He concludes that corporate interests essentially “won” the competition, the wedding of business and politics providing structure and industrial technology providing power for this victory. Through these times of tension, culture attempted to unite people behind incorporated interests, and new lifestyles transformed a life based primarily on tangible experience to one of spectacle. The book is, by nature of its highly interpretative approach and argument, heavily reliant on secondary sources, usually only delving to primaries when examining particular pieces of literature or contemporary observations. When these are employed, they are quite useful. However, the work could be strengthened with the inclusion of a more concrete definition of the old society that Trachtenberg argues was being replaced. Additionally, the previous American society was incredibly diverse, both from North to South but also from Eastern cities to the Western frontier. An examination of how the processes Trachtenberg identities expressed themselves distinctly in different locales would provide a more complex and complete picture of the changes occurring at this time. These flaws, however, are minor. The work is still incredibly valuable, not only in its interpretation of massive change ripe with inherent tension, but it is also useful for its methodological approach that examines cultural artifacts to determine a generally unspoken societal zeitgeist. For this alone, the book is massively ambitions and, due to Trachtenberg's scholarship, quite successful.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alan Kolok

    When I first started to read this book, I was disappointed. The print face was bad and hard to read and the style of the writing was dense, formal and a little stuffy. There were references to people and events of the day in the book that if you did not know ahead of time would be completely confounding. Knowing a bit about the era, I decided to read it anyway, and pledged to read 10 pages per day with the intent of finishing the book in three to four weeks. I finished in 10 days. Once I got into When I first started to read this book, I was disappointed. The print face was bad and hard to read and the style of the writing was dense, formal and a little stuffy. There were references to people and events of the day in the book that if you did not know ahead of time would be completely confounding. Knowing a bit about the era, I decided to read it anyway, and pledged to read 10 pages per day with the intent of finishing the book in three to four weeks. I finished in 10 days. Once I got into it, I found gem after gem embedded within. There would be three or four pages that were quite academic and stiff, then a piece that was so informational or thought provoking that I had to put the book down for a second and think about for a few minutes. That was a very pleasant surprise. The chapters on western expansion, on labor and on mechanization were eye-opening and the parallels with much of the book and our current history is interesting. As others have said in their reviews I thought the first four chapters told a nice story, the last three less so. If you have the patience to read this book, (I almost did not) then it will reward you with some very interesting and insightful material. You also just might find yourself looking at our modern society through a different lens.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laura Houlette

    Written in 1982, this book gives an interesting overview of US social and cultural history from the end of the Civil War through the beginning of the 20th century. The ills of the Gilded Age seem familiar: a new relationship to labor and a resulting struggle for economic security, increasingly large divides in wealth and class, the impact of new communications technologies and forms of discourse, and governmental corruption to name a few. My favorite chapters (if you want to cherry-pick, and I t Written in 1982, this book gives an interesting overview of US social and cultural history from the end of the Civil War through the beginning of the 20th century. The ills of the Gilded Age seem familiar: a new relationship to labor and a resulting struggle for economic security, increasingly large divides in wealth and class, the impact of new communications technologies and forms of discourse, and governmental corruption to name a few. My favorite chapters (if you want to cherry-pick, and I think you should) were the ones on the railroad and westward expansion and the chapter on the politics of culture. As far as reading for pleasure goes, I found it hard to get through; the American Studies style tested my attention span (how long can one paragraph be? what is the topic sentence here? the main idea?), but the information I gathered was interesting and, perhaps also useful as we navigate our current times?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Enkidu Jones

    The title and summary are completely misleading. Has nothing to do with the business aspects of the incorporation of America. Rather, it’s about art and writing related to this period. For example, the first chapter describes “the West” – but from the point of view of books written about it. The author is clearly clueless about much of economics and business. After the second of five sections I only skimmed the rest.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Enrico

    "More like the Incorporation of WHITE America." - Literary critic Paul Schmitt "More like the Incorporation of WHITE America." - Literary critic Paul Schmitt

  13. 4 out of 5

    Greg Akins

    A little rambling and encompassed a lot of peripheral topics. But exhaustive and detailed.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Alan Trachtenberg's The Incorporation of America is a fascinating cultural analysis of Gilded Age America. The work is fully deserving of the praise and recognition it has gained over the years. Trachtenberg weaves the concept of incorporation throughout the diverse topics of Westward movement, violence against Native Americans, mechanization, capital and labor, urban development, the growth of middle class cultural values, realism, and the 1893 Columbian Exposition. It is densely analytical but Alan Trachtenberg's The Incorporation of America is a fascinating cultural analysis of Gilded Age America. The work is fully deserving of the praise and recognition it has gained over the years. Trachtenberg weaves the concept of incorporation throughout the diverse topics of Westward movement, violence against Native Americans, mechanization, capital and labor, urban development, the growth of middle class cultural values, realism, and the 1893 Columbian Exposition. It is densely analytical but remains an impressively readable narrative through its logical organization and smooth transitions. I found the book more useful for the insights it provides into the specific topics of each chapter and for how much it reveals about why the United States is the way it is today. The overall idea of "the incorporation of America" is brilliantly conceived and effectively binds together the book's broad scope into a digestible argument, but at times the connections between the topic at hand and the word "incorporation" and between the varied uses of the word "incorporation" felt tenuous. I will undoubtedly return to this book for a closer reading, as it draws connections between so many historical trends and events toward which my interest gravitates. Perhaps upon closer reading I will more fully understand the multifaceted meaning of "incorporation" that Trachtenberg employs and constructs. If I ever research or write about any of the topics Trachtenberg addresses, the extensive and updated bibliographic essay at the back of the book will be an excellent source for discovering secondary literature. Favorite quotes: "If the Southern system of chattel slavery had obstructed industrial progress, provoking a civil war, so the Indian system of communal ownership had inspired resistance to Western expansion; it, too, required destruction, and then a policy of 'reconstruction' of the defeated natives into an image of their victors: their languages and costumes, their names and religion, their laws regarding work and property. By the 1890's, then, the Indian had been incorporated into America no longer simply as 'savage,' a fantasy object of ambivalent romantic identification or racial hatred, but as 'lowest order,' outcast and pariah who represented the fate of all those who do not work, do not own, do not prefer the benefits of legal status within the hierarchies of modern institutions to the prerogatives of freedom and cultural autonomy" (34). "Just as the private home emerged as a pervasive image of freedom, of refuge, so that freedom seemed more and more linked to goods produced elsewhere: goods representing... that market from which the home seemed a refuge" (129-130). The department store as "a pedagogy of modernity" that "present[ed] goods as if they represented something more than themselves" and "sold along with goods lessons in modern living" (131-132). "What may strike us as ironies are instead contradictions held in momentary balance- not a confusion of values, as historians have suggested, but an effort to incorporate contrary and diverse values under the unity of a system of culture in support of a system of society" (216). "The final message of the Fair concerned the method of making such a future: through a corporate alliance of business, culture, and the state. But another part of the message was precisely to keep that alliance aloof, not so much hidden and disguised but above reproach, beyond criticism. And, for this function, art and culture served simply to dazzle the senses..." (217-218). "In the glow of the White City, Populism looked as grotesque as the notion of direct rule by 'the people' seemed now a nonsensity" (220). "In sum, White City seemed to have settled on the question of the true and real meaning of America. It seemed the victory of elites in business, politics, and culture over dissident but divided voices of labor, farmers, immigrants, blacks, and women" (231).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    "The Incorporation of America," indeed anything by Alan Trachtenberg, is a classic text in American Studies. That said, today it feels a bit dated and myopic-- particularly on questions of race and class. Trachtenberg defines incorporation broadly to include many kinds of social change and corporate organization. Interested more in the level of meaning and understanding, Trachtenberg performs rhetorical analysis of the era's texts (including visual art) to discern how historical actors understoo "The Incorporation of America," indeed anything by Alan Trachtenberg, is a classic text in American Studies. That said, today it feels a bit dated and myopic-- particularly on questions of race and class. Trachtenberg defines incorporation broadly to include many kinds of social change and corporate organization. Interested more in the level of meaning and understanding, Trachtenberg performs rhetorical analysis of the era's texts (including visual art) to discern how historical actors understood events. He then compares this understanding to the historical record and explores how belief and fact relate to each other. The book is Organized by theme, Trachtenberg examines the dominant myths/symbols/conflicts of Gilded Age America: labor and capital; the West; Realism; the 1893 World's Fair; machines and mechanization; high v. popular culture; and urban life. In each of these chapters, he identifies how signs of progress also included their opposite. The chapters also expand the bounds of the theme. For example, in the chapter on urban life, Trachtenberg also talks extensively about the role of newspapers in creating a sense of alienation from the real by presenting contemporary events as spectacle. The book includes a variety of interesting and valuable insights. His use of novels, poetry, popular journalism, and other sources is particularly inspired. However, "The Incorporation of America" ignores race and almost completely ignores gender. This oversight is particularly strong in the sections on department stores and labor culture. Likewise, he brushes over the role of science and medicine in creating a class of socially-oriented professionals.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ann Mcelligott

    The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age" was published in 1982 and reissued in 2007 with a new introduction and a revised bibliographic essay. Trachtenberg explores how the industrial revolution and the expansion of the capitalist system influenced culture in the United States. Each chapter explores a theme of social history in light of the changing images and myths shaping the changing culture: Westward expansion, mechanization, the separation of labor and capital an The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age" was published in 1982 and reissued in 2007 with a new introduction and a revised bibliographic essay. Trachtenberg explores how the industrial revolution and the expansion of the capitalist system influenced culture in the United States. Each chapter explores a theme of social history in light of the changing images and myths shaping the changing culture: Westward expansion, mechanization, the separation of labor and capital and the emergence of three classes - working, middle, and elite; the rise of the metropolis; political change and the emergence of parties of reform and protest; and the literature and the evolution of realism in fiction. The final chapter is the White City about the World's Columbian Exposition as the "symbolic terminus change from a community based on equality to one based on consumption. Professionalism provided a new form of identity. Top-down hierarchies dominated many various aspects of common life. Agrarian and mercantile society became and industrial metropolitan society. Election campaigns became sales campaigns, and politics became a business, and candidates were subordinate to the party bosses and money. I found the book fascinating and well written. The changes during Gilded Age are the foundation of the present era. Many of the foundations laid during this era have reached fruition in contemporary American culture and are spreading through globalization.

  17. 4 out of 5

    B

    Trachtenberg gets kind of lost here. He's really interested in discussing a lot of culture and a little bit of politics, but using the culture to make a point about politics. It doesn't come across as related as he thinks it is, both because it's too cursory and because of some other reasons that I'll never take the time to ascertain. Like there's a lot of mentioning of the fight over who's going to the architect of the Chicago World's Fair. So what? There's definitely has a lot material here if Trachtenberg gets kind of lost here. He's really interested in discussing a lot of culture and a little bit of politics, but using the culture to make a point about politics. It doesn't come across as related as he thinks it is, both because it's too cursory and because of some other reasons that I'll never take the time to ascertain. Like there's a lot of mentioning of the fight over who's going to the architect of the Chicago World's Fair. So what? There's definitely has a lot material here if you wanted to figure out what part of the 1870s interested you the most.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

    Interesting argument. Analyzes the development of corporate America and the conflict of cultural values that emerge. I particularly like the last chapter on the White City which is used as a culminating case study to tie the author's argument together. The Colombian Exposition in Chicago is a fascinating event to research. Even if you aren't interested in reading this book a search online for it will reveal the world of conflict that existed during the Gilded Age. Interesting argument. Analyzes the development of corporate America and the conflict of cultural values that emerge. I particularly like the last chapter on the White City which is used as a culminating case study to tie the author's argument together. The Colombian Exposition in Chicago is a fascinating event to research. Even if you aren't interested in reading this book a search online for it will reveal the world of conflict that existed during the Gilded Age.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    A fascinating look at the role that incorporation has had on the politics and culture of America. A "classic" book (first came out in 1982), _The Incorporation of America_ deftly traces the roots of what Ike later called "the military industrial complex" and the ways in which "democracy"/"culture" shifted as terms to mean "power"/"hierarchy." An engaging read. A fascinating look at the role that incorporation has had on the politics and culture of America. A "classic" book (first came out in 1982), _The Incorporation of America_ deftly traces the roots of what Ike later called "the military industrial complex" and the ways in which "democracy"/"culture" shifted as terms to mean "power"/"hierarchy." An engaging read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    I enjoyed this book. It looks at the Industrial Revolution in the United States through the lenses of culture. Provides really interesting insight into the use of spectacle to cover up the darker side of industrialization. A little wordy and lacks foot notes which is frustrating for a history student but a good read none the less.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alexandro Guillen

    An interesting study of the factors which contributes to the transformation of the United States during the latter part of the 19th century. This book examine the origin of the conflict between individualism and corporation; a conflict which "still persists". An interesting study of the factors which contributes to the transformation of the United States during the latter part of the 19th century. This book examine the origin of the conflict between individualism and corporation; a conflict which "still persists".

  22. 4 out of 5

    Humphrey

    A classic of cultural history, I was surprised at times at this book's nuance: the power of incorporation (and the corporation) as a framework lies precisely in Trachtenberg's repeated claim that its language informs both sides of major postbellum debates in politics, economics, and culture. A classic of cultural history, I was surprised at times at this book's nuance: the power of incorporation (and the corporation) as a framework lies precisely in Trachtenberg's repeated claim that its language informs both sides of major postbellum debates in politics, economics, and culture.

  23. 4 out of 5

    matt Sandler

    thoroughly good, lightning fast read, and an ample perspective couldn't recommend a better story of 'the great barbecue.' thoroughly good, lightning fast read, and an ample perspective couldn't recommend a better story of 'the great barbecue.'

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cliff Lorick

    Great book. Easy to read and informative.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Arthur

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michaele

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Manuel

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chris Fobare

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