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In our age of hyper-inequality, historian Steve Fraser asks when the little guy stands up and says “enough.” He’s with us.
American inequality is once again at historic levels. A second Gilded Age. Everybody knows it. A top tier doing great. Scooping up every luxury. Building mind-boggling fortunes. And millions really struggling to get by. To keep hope alive of a better life. In the first gilded age, in the 19th century, Americans were in the streets over inequity. Marching. Brawling. Demanding change. This time, says my guest today, labor historian Steve Fraser, it’s weirdly quiet out there. The Age of Acquiescence, he calls it. This hour On Point: wealth, power and “where’s the protest?” in America.
-- Tom Ashbrook
Steve Fraser, historian and visiting professor at New York University. Author of the new book "The Age Of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power." Also author of "Every Man A Speculator" and "Wall Street: America's Dream Palace."
From Tom’s Reading List
New York Times: ‘The Age of Acquiescence,’ by Steve Fraser -- "To solve the mystery of why sustained resistance to wealth inequality has gone missing in the United States, Fraser devotes the first half of the book to documenting the cut and thrust of the first Gilded Age: the mass strikes that shut down cities and enjoyed the support of much of the population; the Eight Hour Leagues that dramatically cut the length of the workday, fighting for the universal right to leisure and time 'for what we will'; the vision of a ‘cooperative commonwealth’ in place of the Hobbesian nightmare that Progress had become.”
The Nation: How the Koch Brothers and Other Family Capitalists Are Ruining America -- "Our own masters of the universe, like the 'robber barons' of old, are inordinately impressed with their ascendancy to the summit of economic power. Add their personal triumphs to American culture’s perennial love affair with business—President Calvin Coolidge, for instance, is remembered today only for proclaiming that 'the business of America is business'—and you have a formula for megalomania."
The Atlantic: Why Workers Won’t Unite — "So far, though, the fraught future of labor in the U.S. has notably failed to generate public protest on a significant scale. Nothing in American politics compares with the civil-rights crusade, the movement against the Vietnam War, or the labor wars of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Could that change? Might the future possibly hold a resurgence of the indignation about class disparities—and about the labor and economic circumstances they reflect—that was once focused on the workplace?"
Read An Excerpt Of "The Age Of Acquiescence" By Steve Fraser
This program aired on March 26, 2015.