Discussion 1 (USH)
Paper details This discussion asks you to grapple with the evolution of American capitalism after the Civil War and through the turn of the 20th century. Beginning in the 1870s, American industry began to expand and produce rapidly, and this new industry, and a surging population, began finally to link the country’s two major coasts together. The new era of industrialization generated unprecedented levels of wealth and, in many ways, political power for private businessmen. As men like Jay Gould, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, and J.P. Morgan began to exert the full weight of their influence on U.S. capitalism and democracy, the vast majority of the population began to get a taste of the levels of class inequality that industrialized countries in Europe had been dealing with for a little longer. It was clear more needed to be done to put the nation’s collective wealth toward the benefit of more of the population, but how America would achieve any level of wealth redistribution was an open and contested question. For those at the top of the socio-economic ladder, the answer did not involve the federal government. To summarize this viewpoint, in 1889, Andrew Carnegie published an essay that described in direct terms why he thought the rich and powerful should be trusted to look out for the interests of America’s working class.
In his famous essay titled “Wealth” (often referred to as the “Gospel of Wealth”), the founder and owner of U.S. Steel Andrew Carnegie argued that, rather than depend on taxes to support public projects and social safety nets, the American people could trust the wealthy to donate most or all of their money to charities, or to spend it in ways that benefited American society at large. Based on the principles of Social Darwinism – a pseudo-scientific theory that applies Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection to human behavior and society – Carnegie claimed the wealthy were simply the most talented and intelligent, based on their success, and so they should be the ones deciding how to spend the nation’s stockpiles of wealth. Do you agree or disagree with Carnegie’s thinking that America would be better off taxing the wealthy far less, and trusting them to use their extreme wealth to help the general American populace? Use examples from the text and/or from other moments in American history to back up your argument. (Although it is not required reading for this assignment, students are encouraged to locate an open-source version of Carnegie’s essay and review it before making their responses.)
the preponderance of violence and instability in Europe in the early twentieth century, with specific attention to the problem of Germany.
Paper details Draw on as many of our sources as possible to explain the preponderance of violence and instability in Europe in the early twentieth century, with specific attention to the problem of Germany. Explore the attitudes and practices that allowed for the rise of Hitler, from nationalism, racism, antisemitism and ideas about Lebensraum to foreign policies such as appeasement and the Nazi-Soviet pact. What were the sources of German resentment and grievance in the inter-war period? Try to refer specifically to films such as Triumph of the Will by Leni Riefenstahl and cite powerpoint lectures as well. How does Sebastian Haffner treat the era in Defying Hitler? What is the “underlying moral” that he wishes to emphasize throughout the book (p. 5)? How important is the cultivation of private sensibilities and private life to the defeat of fascism, according to Haffner?
Europe Since 1989
Paper details Draw from the work by Philipp Ther, Europe Since 1989, to describe the challenges facing the contemporary European Union in the aftermath of 1989. What frustrations are common to many East Europeans (Czechoslovaks, East Germans, Hungarians, Poles, etc.) as they adjust to life in the newly expanded European Union?
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