Key Concept 6.3: The “Gilded Age” witnessed new cultural and intellectual movements in tandem with political debates over economic and social policies.
I. Gilded Age politics were intimately tied to big business and focused nationally on economic issues — tariffs, currency, corporate expansion, and laissez-faire economic policy — that engendered numerous calls for reform. (POL-6)
Corruption in government — especially as it related to big business —
energized the public to demand increased popular control and reform overhauls of the capitalist system.
II. New cultural and intellectual movements both buttressed and challenged the social order of the Gilded Age. (ID-2) (CUL-3) (CUL-5) (CUL-6)
Cultural and intellectual arguments justified the success of those at the top of the socioeconomic structure as both appropriate and inevitable, even as some leaders argued that the wealthy had some obligation to help the less fortunate.
A number of critics challenged the dominant corporate ethic in the United States and sometimes capitalism itself, offering alternate visions of the good society through utopianism and the Social Gospel.
Challenging their prescribed “place,” women and African American activists articulated alternative visions of political, social, and economic equality.