chapter  5
25 Pages

The Neoliberal Era: Postindustrial Society in a New Gilded Age

With the perspective drawn from hindsight, the period from the mid-1970s through the fi rst decade of the twenty-fi rst century now appears to many observers to be a second Gilded Age. The term is used because the period resembles in important ways the fi rst Gilded Age during the late nineteenth century. During that time, great fortunes were built by leading industrialists and bankers, dwarfi ng previous ones accumulated by merchants and slave owners. The economy was marked by frequent fi nancial panics and intense competition among businesses and workers to lower labor cost, and globalization undercut the wages and working conditions of native-born skilled workers. Meanwhile, government offi cials

shamelessly accepted bribes and campaign contributions from wealthy entrepreneurs, allowing them to gain special favors from government, and the Supreme Court routinely struck down legislation protecting the interests of workers and consumers and regulating the behavior of business. Political discourse was dominated by the upper class fear that government would redistribute wealth downward toward the working class.