The Worker

American Labor and Identity (ca.1500-ca.1870)

How do labor and American Identity relate?

From the time of European colonization of the New World through Westward Expansion, both the American worker and American Identity transformed from the subservient subjects of Europe into powerful and proud entities that emphasized autonomy as the common tenet of every American.

Description of Major Points

Native and Early European Labor systems

Before European colonization, there were Native American systems of labor that exemplified a fair balance of power between superiors and workers, but these systems would prove to be inconsequential to the development of America. As a result, Europe set up labor systems in North America that absolutely exploited Native Americans, Africans, and indentured servants to extreme degrees. This attitude would carry over into the European approach of other cultural institutions in America, making the one significant identity of America during this era as the landholdings that yielded all control to Europe just like the workers that were dominated by European slavery and plantations.

Colonial and Early Republican Labor systems

As colonial cities grew, they developed small industry that afforded participants liberties unavailable heretofore in the colonies, and the agrarian sector also saw the rise of independent farms in t he backwoods of established colonies such as Pennsylvania. However, entry into these fields was severely restricted, causing a bottleneck that only let a select few enjoy the full autonomy of their respective fields. Similarly, there was only a small urban elite that spearheaded the Revolutionary era, and as a result the cultural identity of America was molded to emphasize autonomy, but only for those select few who could contribute to the government and high society.

Industrial and Western Labor systems

With the arrival of industrial machinery and farmland from territorial acquisitions, the aforementioned bottleneck was broken, and autonomy was devolved to a majority of the workforce. This demographic shift led to a cultural embrace of the common man, leading to the removal of property requirements of election and the start of the Transcendentalist movement. As a result of this move, the more popular democracy set in motion a chain of events that would ultimately lead to the complete territorial expansion of the United States and the liberation of all remaining African-American slaves. By the end of this period overhaul, the American worker stood tall and prided himself on his autonomy, his ability to control his own life, and the cultural identity of America finally became one that emphasized its autonomy over its domestic affairs and prided itself on the devolution of that same autonomy to its populace

The Complete Evolution / Summary

The status of the American worker and contemporary American identity were inextricably intertwined from European settlement until the dawn of the West. In the prime of colonization, both the American worker and American Identity had surrendered complete control to European dominance. Due to development by the end of the Revolutionary period, only the top tier of the American workers had access to autonomy over their craft just as America had established a cultural identity of autonomy for the elite by the elite. Finally, due to industry and territory, the American worker experienced expanded autonomy over both business and social affairs for a massive workforce by the dawn of the West, and American identity finally culminated into that of the protector of the autonomy of its denizens.