The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power

The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power

by Steve Fraser


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A groundbreaking investigation of how and why, from the 18th century to the present day, American resistance to our ruling elites has vanished.

From the American Revolution through the Civil Rights movement, Americans have long mobilized against political, social, and economic privilege. Hierarchies based on inheritance, wealth, and political preferment were treated as obnoxious and a threat to democracy. Mass movements envisioned a new world supplanting dog-eat-dog capitalism. But over the last half-century that political will and cultural imagination have vanished. Why?

The Age of Acquiescence seeks to solve that mystery. Steve Fraser's account of national transformation brilliantly examines the rise of American capitalism, the visionary attempts to protect the democratic commonwealth, and the great surrender to today's delusional fables of freedom and the politics of fear. Effervescent and razorsharp, The Age of Acquiescence is provocative and fascinating.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316185431
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 02/17/2015
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Steve Fraser is the author of Every Man a Speculator and Wall Street, among other books, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and The Nation. He lives in New York City.

Table of Contents

Introduction 3

Part I Class Warfare in America: The Long Nineteenth Century

1 Progress 25

2 Progress, Poverty, and Primitive Accumulation 39

3 Premonitions 68

4 The Second Civil War: In the Countryside 88

5 The Second Civil War: On the Industrial Frontier 107

6 Myth and History 145

7 The End of Socialism 179

Part II Desire and Fear in the Second Gilded Age

8 Back to the Future: The Political Economy of Auto-cannibalism 223

9 Fables of Acquiescence: The Businessman as Populist Hero 264

10 Fables of Freedom: Brand X 302

11 Wages of Freedom: The Fable of the Free Agent 324

12 Journey to Nowhere: The Eclipse of the Labor Movement 341

13 Improbable Rebels: The Folklore of Limousine Liberalism 375

14 Conclusion: Exit by the Rear Doors 408

Acknowledgments 423

Notes 427

Index 453

What People are Saying About This

Greg Grandin

Over the last few years, there's been a wealth of books describing our new Gilded Age and bemoaning the extreme economic inequality that now defines modern America. Steve Fraser's fascinating The Age of Acquiescence is indispensable because it explains how that happened, how America's long standing opposition to concentrated wealth was defeated. Steve Fraser, in other words, is Thomas Piketty with politics, providing a crucial guide in helping the ninety-nine percent understand the terms of their defeat and, more importantly, how it can once again go on the offensive. --Greg Grandin, author of The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World and Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City

Frances Fox Piven

Steve Fraser has given us a sweeping account of the economic and cultural changes in American society that combined to create an earlier era of working class struggle and hope, and then in our present moment have generated quiescence and despair. Read this book for its synoptic account of the ways that cultural manipulation have accompanied intensifying economic exploitation. But read it also to snatch glimmers of a better future from the past. --Frances Fox Piven, author of Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America

Lewis Lapham

A splendid and illuminating book. Fraser's writing is clear-headed and free of cant. I know of no better an accounting for the division of America over the last forty years into a minority of the terrified rich and a majority of the humiliated poor. --Lewis Lapham, editor of Lapham's Quarterly and author of Pretensions to Empire: Notes on the Criminal Folly of the Bush Administration

Eric Foner

Steve Fraser is that rare writer who combines a deep knowledge of history with a penetrating analysis of our current political and social condition. Here, in the lively prose that marks all his writing, he probes the similarities and differences between America's two gilded ages — the late nineteenth-century and today — offering provocative observations about why the first produced massive popular resistance and the second resigned acquiescence. --Eric Foner, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery

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