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Economic and Social Problems that Emerged in the United States During the Gilded Age and How These Problems were Addressed in the Progressive Era

The Gilded Age and the early years of the 21st century became an era of great economic development and social alterations in the United States. Generally, across the period between Reconstruction and the dawn of the new century, the Gilded Age experienced swift urbanization, industrialization, as well as the growth of big business (Telgen, 2012). The years that followed were characterized by progressivism, the forward-looking political association that tried to remedy some of the issues that had emerged during the Gilded Era. Progressives approved some laws that would liberate the government from special interests, fight corruption, restrict business, and safeguard the rights of the poor, workers, consumers, and immigrants. The Gilded Age was an era of hasty economic development, but also much social conflict.

The era, which covered the period of the last three decades of the 19th century, was one of the most dynamic, controversial, and unpredictable times in the history of America. The industrial economy of the United States exploded, creating extraordinary opportunities for people to establish the great affluence, but also leaving several workers and farmers struggling purely for survival (Mahoney, 2005). In general, the national affluence increased five times, an incredible increase, but one, which was accompanied by what many people perceived as an evenly astounding difference between the rich and the poor. The industrial giants like John Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie transformed business and gave way to the current corporate economy, but also sarcastically, in some instances, devastated free-market economic competition. A large number of people voted in national elections, but the leaders they voted in, were time and again dreary figures who ignored the public interest (Telgen, 2012).


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Those years were tumultuous due to the increased racial tension, labor aggression, dissatisfaction among the unemployed, and militancy among the farmers. Troubled by reducing farm prices as well as increased debts, several farmers joined the Populist Party that called for a modified income tax, boost in the amount of money in circulation, state intervention to assist farmers in repaying their loans, and tariff cutbacks (Montgomery, 2008). There were too much greed and corruption, atrocious industrial competition, including ruthless exploitation of labor. Monopolies resulted in efficiency and order, and wealth enabled benevolence. Nevertheless, subjugation itself stirred creative reactions that assisted in establishing the current America. Industrial employees were misused, but they reacted by forming associations that would slowly recover their wages as well as the working conditions. Farmers lost money, including much of their long-established impact of their state affairs, but they also struggled to find associations and techniques that would perhaps preserve their place. Businessmen experienced distressing competitive forces together with financial turmoil in the marketplace, but they established new associations and plans that would perhaps enable current American corporate capitalism to thrive (Telgen, 2012).

By the 20th century, the emergence of big business and the large movement of American citizens from the countryside to the urban areas led to a change in political awareness, as elected leaders perceived the necessity to tackle the developing economy and social issues that came with the urban explosion. Therefore, the Progressive Era emerged, which was a huge assault on the issues that weighed down American life. Progressives assumed that the government had to take a robust, practical role in the economy, regulating big business, urban development, and immigration (Montgomery, 2008). Those middle-class reformers hoped eventually to regain control of the state from special interests like the trusts and railroads and initiate effective laws to safeguard organized labor, minorities, and consumers. Their targets included working conditions such as job security, safety, hours, and wages. They tackled the opponents of the capitalist system in an effort to safeguard it, instead of replacing it with socialist choices. They dealt with social issues like alcohol abuse and prostitution that they perceived as the ones resulting in domestic hostility. They also advocated for better management of businesses (Mahoney, 2005).

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In conclusion, the Progressive Movement was a defensive response against the rising threat of the socialism or communism in the American political, social, and economic life. The Progressives were behind several reforms geared towards fighting against capitalism and safeguarding. However, because the movement did not progress swiftly, the Socialist Party achieved a little bit of footing. Several of the solutions that were initially put forth by farmers and workers were implemented by the reform-minded leaders and middle-class activists within business and government as they were concerned to put in order what they deemed troubling the American citizens.

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