The Unfinished Nation: Chapter 17 Industrial Supremacy


Chapter 17 Main Themes:


  1. How various factors (raw materials, labor supply, technology, business organization, growing markets, and friendly governments) combined to thrust the United States into worldwide industrial leadership.


  1. How this explosion of industrial capitalism was both extolled for its accomplishments and attacked for its excesses.


  1. How American workers, who on the average benefited, reacted to the physical and psychological realities of the new economic order.



A thorough study of Chapter Seventeen should enable the student to understand:


  • The reasons for the rapid industrial development of the United States in the late nineteenth century.


  • The impact of individual entrepreneurship and technological innovations in promoting industrial expansion and the development of new industries such as steel, oil, automobiles, and aviation.


  • The changes that were taking place in the incorporation, organization, and management of American business.


  • The ways in which older notions of individualism and the newer concept of Social Darwinism combined to preach the gospel of wealth and to justify the social consequences of the new industrial capitalism.


  • The critics of the new industrial capitalism, and the solutions they proposed..


  • The conditions of immigrants, women, and children in the work force.


  • The attempt by organized labor to form national associations, and the reasons why craft-based labor organizations became the norm.


  • The reasons that organized labor generally failed in its efforts to achieve its objectives.





Adam Smith   Scottish philosopher and economist who advocated laissez faire. Scottish-born Smith was the author of the extremely influential book The Wealth of Nations (1776), which argues that the "free hand" of competition will best produce wealth and that governments should not interfere with business.

Capitalism   A national economic and business system in which the great majority of the basic means of production and distribution of goals are privately owned and managed for profit.


Collective Bargaining   A system in which a labor union negotiates with management to set the wages and working conditions of all members of the union. This is in contrast to the traditional system, in which each worker dealt individually with management.

Craft And Industrial Unionism   Craft unions are organized according to a worker's skill--for example, plumbing. Industrial unions are organized according to the industry in which a worker toils, regardless of his or her particular responsibility--for example, coal mining.


Horizontal Integration   The combining of a number of firms engaged in the same enterprise into a single corporation.


Law of Supply and Demand   An economic axiom that asserts that when the demand for goods and services exceeds the supply, prices will rise, and when supply surpasses demand, prices will fall.


Marxism/Communism   A variety of extreme socialism, based on the writings of Karl Marx, that assumes that the inherent conflict between labor and capital will inevitably lead to socialist revolution, the collapse of capitalism, and the emergence of a classless society.


Monopoly   A business situation in which one company controls virtually the entire market for a particular good or service. The monopoly may be regional or national. (When a few businesses control the market, it is called an oligopoly.)


Patent   An official government grant, given as an incentive for technological advancement, which entitles an inventor to exclusive right to the proceeds of his or her work for a limited number of years. (See U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8.)


Socialism   An economic theory that emphasizes the importance of class and argues that the interests of workers and capitalists are inherently antagonistic. Socialists believe that a more equitable distribution of the economic benefits of society will result if the people as a whole, through their government, own and manage the basic means of production and distribution.


Vertical Integration   The taking over of all the different businesses upon which a company relies for its product, from resources to distribution.