All Business: Confronting the Ethical Dilemmas of Financial Evolution in Gilded Age Fiction
Fineman, Joel Aaron
Merish, Lori A
William Dean Howells and Theodore Dreiser observe the deteriorating ethics of modern American capitalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In The Rise of Silas Lapham and The Financier, these authors craft two different paradigms of the capitalist mentality that surfaces in the 1870s--the formative decade of the country's economic landscape. Depicting variations of "success," their novels attempt to reconcile the ethical dilemmas that the emerging capitalist figure encounters. Howells determines that preserving a moral conscience--a requisite for contentment--demands relinquishing material wealth and detaching from the capitalist system. Dreiser is more reluctant to provide a solution; he simply portrays the economic and social ascent of the definitive capitalist and then questions the value of such a life. For Howells and Dreiser, capitalist ideals are incompatible with traditional morality and civic virtues. This conflict places financial success and personal happiness at odds with one another. These two texts show the extent to which capitalism permeates not only the individual but also society, by demonstrating the threat this clash of principles poses to personal well-being and financial stability. Analyzing the works of Howells and Dreiser reveals the seminal faults in corporate capitalism's ethical foundation. The recession of 2008 illustrated that America has yet to fully grasp the nature of its capitalist economy; therefore, it is critical to reevaluate the current economic system and the tenets that support it.
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Schmidt, Terri A.; Salo, David; Hughes, Jason A.; Abbott, Jean T.; Geiderman, Joel M.; Johnson, Catherine X.; McClure, Katie B.; McKay, Mary Pat; Razzak, Junaid A.; Schears, Raquel M.; Solomon, Robert C. (Society for Academic Emergency Medicine [SAEM]. Ethics Committee, 2004-10)