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Surviving the Second Gilded Age

Wednesday, 14 December 2011 03:00 By Henry A Giroux, Truthout | Op-Ed
Surviving the Second Gilded Age

Occupy Wall Street protesters stage a demonstration on the pedestrian walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge, in New York, November 17, 2011. (Photo: Robert Stolarik / The New York Times)

It has become difficult to not recognize that we are firmly in the grip of a second Gilded Age. Not only is this return obvious in the homage - if not hysteria - that marks a return to the dream worlds of consumption, commodification and a survival-of-the-fittest ethic, but also in the actions of right-wing politicians who want to initiate policies that take the country back to the late 19th century

- a time in which the reforms of the New Deal, the Great Society and the Progressive Era did not exist.

This was a period in which robber barons, railroad magnates and the super-rich spread their corrupting influence throughout the political, economic and cultural landscapes - without having to deal with irritating social reforms such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, child labor laws, environmental protections, affirmative action, civil rights, union rights, antitrust laws, a progressive income tax and a host of other reforms. This was a period when money flowed and privilege shaped practically all aspects of American life, making a mockery out of democracy and imposing massive amounts of suffering on the vast majority of Americans. Women could not vote and were seen as second-class citizens, blacks were treated harshly by Jim Crow policies, young people were exploited through harsh labor, education was limited to the elite, inequality in wealth and income reached extreme disparities, slums festered, and politics was corrupted by the moneyed classes.  

In time, protests emerged among students, workers, unions, women, people of color and others to address these injustices. Labor became a potent force in the first half of the 20th century. Then blacks mobilized a formidable civil rights movement, women’s groups organized to address a range of injustices, students infused new life into the drive for democracy both within and outside of higher education. Gay, lesbian and transgender groups - along with a number of other marginalized and oppressed groups - fought to gain basic civil rights. But these movements not only produced notable victories in deepening and expanding the promise and possibilities of a substantive democracy, they also were the object of a powerfully organized backlash on the part of conservatives, who organized a right-wing cultural revolution that successfully rolled back many of the progressive gains that emerged in the first and second half of the 20th century.

The conservative backlash and war against equality, justice and human rights has been reinforced in the last 30 years by the consolidation of the media into the hands of the corporate elite. Truthout is one of the few news outlets that has not only fought that trend, but has showcased a variety of writers, journalists and academics who take seriously what it means to use the media to fight for the truth, give voice to those who are powerless and address issues that are ignored in the dominant and right-wing media.

We refuse to support the politicians, think tanks, media and anti-public intellectuals who are pushing to create a Second Gilded Age. We believe that democracy matters, and we fight hard to provide the formative culture that makes it possible. Please join us in that fight.

Click here
to donate.
Click here to donate.
(Truthout is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. EIN: 20-0031641)

You can also donate by check, made payable to:
Truthout, P.O. Box 276414, Sacramento, CA 95827
(Please include your email address on your check.)

Or call in your donation:
213.489.1971

Henry A Giroux

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books include:  On Critical Pedagogy (Continuum, 2011), Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability (Paradigm 2012), Disposable Youth: Racialized Memories and the Culture of Cruelty (Routledge 2012), Youth in Revolt: Reclaiming a Democratic Future (Paradigm 2013), and The Educational Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013), America's Disimagination Machine (City Lights) and Higher Education After Neoliberalism (Haymarket) will be published in 2014). Giroux is also a member of Truthout's Board of Directors. His web site is www.henryagiroux.com. Truthout readers receive a 30% discount by clicking the link and inserting the Code: TOGIR (please note that this code is cap-sensitive) on the following books: Youth in Revolt: Reclaiming a Democratic Future, March 2013; The Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Politics in an Age of Disposability, April 2012; Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror, August 2010; Politics After Hope: Obama and the Crisis of Youth, Race, and Democracy, April 2010; and The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex, June 2007.


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Surviving the Second Gilded Age

Wednesday, 14 December 2011 03:00 By Henry A Giroux, Truthout | Op-Ed
Surviving the Second Gilded Age

Occupy Wall Street protesters stage a demonstration on the pedestrian walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge, in New York, November 17, 2011. (Photo: Robert Stolarik / The New York Times)

It has become difficult to not recognize that we are firmly in the grip of a second Gilded Age. Not only is this return obvious in the homage - if not hysteria - that marks a return to the dream worlds of consumption, commodification and a survival-of-the-fittest ethic, but also in the actions of right-wing politicians who want to initiate policies that take the country back to the late 19th century

- a time in which the reforms of the New Deal, the Great Society and the Progressive Era did not exist.

This was a period in which robber barons, railroad magnates and the super-rich spread their corrupting influence throughout the political, economic and cultural landscapes - without having to deal with irritating social reforms such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, child labor laws, environmental protections, affirmative action, civil rights, union rights, antitrust laws, a progressive income tax and a host of other reforms. This was a period when money flowed and privilege shaped practically all aspects of American life, making a mockery out of democracy and imposing massive amounts of suffering on the vast majority of Americans. Women could not vote and were seen as second-class citizens, blacks were treated harshly by Jim Crow policies, young people were exploited through harsh labor, education was limited to the elite, inequality in wealth and income reached extreme disparities, slums festered, and politics was corrupted by the moneyed classes.  

In time, protests emerged among students, workers, unions, women, people of color and others to address these injustices. Labor became a potent force in the first half of the 20th century. Then blacks mobilized a formidable civil rights movement, women’s groups organized to address a range of injustices, students infused new life into the drive for democracy both within and outside of higher education. Gay, lesbian and transgender groups - along with a number of other marginalized and oppressed groups - fought to gain basic civil rights. But these movements not only produced notable victories in deepening and expanding the promise and possibilities of a substantive democracy, they also were the object of a powerfully organized backlash on the part of conservatives, who organized a right-wing cultural revolution that successfully rolled back many of the progressive gains that emerged in the first and second half of the 20th century.

The conservative backlash and war against equality, justice and human rights has been reinforced in the last 30 years by the consolidation of the media into the hands of the corporate elite. Truthout is one of the few news outlets that has not only fought that trend, but has showcased a variety of writers, journalists and academics who take seriously what it means to use the media to fight for the truth, give voice to those who are powerless and address issues that are ignored in the dominant and right-wing media.

We refuse to support the politicians, think tanks, media and anti-public intellectuals who are pushing to create a Second Gilded Age. We believe that democracy matters, and we fight hard to provide the formative culture that makes it possible. Please join us in that fight.

Click here
to donate.
Click here to donate.
(Truthout is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. EIN: 20-0031641)

You can also donate by check, made payable to:
Truthout, P.O. Box 276414, Sacramento, CA 95827
(Please include your email address on your check.)

Or call in your donation:
213.489.1971

Henry A Giroux

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books include:  On Critical Pedagogy (Continuum, 2011), Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability (Paradigm 2012), Disposable Youth: Racialized Memories and the Culture of Cruelty (Routledge 2012), Youth in Revolt: Reclaiming a Democratic Future (Paradigm 2013), and The Educational Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013), America's Disimagination Machine (City Lights) and Higher Education After Neoliberalism (Haymarket) will be published in 2014). Giroux is also a member of Truthout's Board of Directors. His web site is www.henryagiroux.com. Truthout readers receive a 30% discount by clicking the link and inserting the Code: TOGIR (please note that this code is cap-sensitive) on the following books: Youth in Revolt: Reclaiming a Democratic Future, March 2013; The Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Politics in an Age of Disposability, April 2012; Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror, August 2010; Politics After Hope: Obama and the Crisis of Youth, Race, and Democracy, April 2010; and The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex, June 2007.


Hide Comments

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