The Conundrum of Class: Public Discourse on the Social Order in America

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University of Chicago Press, 1995 - History - 303 pages
Martin Burke traces the surprisingly complicated history of the idea of class in America from the forming of a new nation to the heart of the Gilded Age.

Surveying American political, social, and intellectual life from the late 17th to the end of the 19th century, Burke examines in detail the contested discourse about equality—the way Americans thought and wrote about class, class relations, and their meaning in society.

Burke explores a remarkable range of thought to establish the boundaries of class and the language used to describe it in the works of leading political figures, social reformers, and moral philosophers. He traces a shift from class as a legal category of ranks and orders to socio-economic divisions based on occupations and income. Throughout the century, he finds no permanent consensus about the meaning of class in America and instead describes a culture of conflicting ideas and opinions.
 

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Contents

The Social Taxonomies of Revolutionary America
1
A Republican Distribution of Citizens
22
The Poetics and Politics of Productive Labor
53
The Rhetoric of Reconcilable Class Conflict
76
The Harmony of Interests An American Ideology of Social Interdependence
108
The War between Capital and Labor
133
Epilogue
159
Notes
167
Bibliography
247
Index
299
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