The Incorporation of America Culture and Society in the Gilded Age

Alan Trachtenberg

Hill and Wang



Trade Paperback

296 Pages



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Today, hardly any realm of American life is untouched by the culture of corporations: politics, education, family life, literature, the arts. When did this happen and what were its effects? Alan Trachtenberg traces the expansion of capitalist power in the last third of the nineteenth century and the cultural changes it brought in its wake.  By examining the major socioeconomic issues of the day—westward expansion, labor unrest, the rise of the cities, and mechanization—Trachtenberg shows how the ideals and ideas by which Americans lived were reshaped and society emerged more structured, with an entrenched middle class and a powerful business elite. This twenty-fifth anniversary edition with a new preface is a discerning analysis of the origins of America's corporate culture and the formation of American social fabric after the civil war.


Praise for The Incorporation of America

"Trachtenberg offers a succinct synthesis of the most recent scholarship of the Gilded Age within a compelling interpretive framework . . . The Incorporation of America redirects American Studies to fundamental problems and suggests to new social historians the rich possibilities of cultural analysis."—H. L. Horowitz, Journal of American History
"Books like Incorporation that offer serious and far-reaching arguments deserve to be thoroughly discussed . . . We need a new narrative—or group of narratives—of American cultural history that takes into account the last 150 years. The Incorporation of America is arguably the starting point for such a new narrative."—David R. Shumway, American Literary History
The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age was first published in 1982 and is re-issued in an updated 25th anniversary paperback edition here for any collection strong in American history, whether it be a high school of college holding or a public lending library. Trachtenberg’s analysis of the expansion of capitalist power in the late 19th century and the cultural changes that accompanied it provides historical essays key to understanding both the era and capitalist effort.” —The Midwest Book Review

"The Incorporation of America is one of those historical essays that not only illuminate their particular subject matter—in this case, American culture and society in the last half of the nineteenth century—but deepen our understanding of how we might think about the general question of 'culture' itself."—Warren I. Susman, Rutgers University

"This book realizes an ideal often mentioned as the goal of American Studies but seldom achieved: it is a truly 'interdisciplinary' account of American culture at a turning point in our history. Mr. Trachtenberg is not merely a scholar, he is a writer. Reading is a pleasure, not a duty."—Henry Nash Smith, University of California at Berkeley

"This graceful venture in cultural history provides a fresh and stimulating interpretation of American society during the last decades of the nineteenth century."—John M. Blum, Yale University

"What I've always loved about all of Trachtenberg's writings is that you can see his mind making new and previously unimagined connections on almost every page. It is this kind of cultural history which I have always found most fascinating and a new edition of this fine work is a happy event."—Allen J. Share, University of Louisville

Reviews from Goodreads



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Alan Trachtenberg is the Neil Gray Jr. Professor Emeritus of English and American studies at Yale University, where he taught for thirty-five years. His books include Shades of Hiawatha (H&W, 2004).
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  • Alan Trachtenberg

  • Alan Trachtenberg is the Neil Gray, Jr., Professor Emeritus of English and American Studies at Yale University, where he taught for thirty-five years. His books include Reading American Photographs, The Shades of Hiawatha, and Brooklyn Bridge: Fact or Symbol. He lives in Hamden, Connecticut.