From Individualism to Unionism: The Changing Meaning of Freedom in America

From Individualism to Unionism: The Changing Meaning of Freedom in America

Length: 3148 words (9 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

From Individualism to Unionism: The Changing Meaning of Freedom in America

In 1893, when Frederick Jackson Turner delivered his speech on the significance of frontier at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, he was addressing an audience that had witnessed the drastic changes that swept through the country over the past sixty or so years. The United States had gone from the agrarian nation of Jefferson’s vision—one with a relatively balanced division of wealth, a population of homogenous skilled workers, and a narrow definition of equality based on a broad definition of freedom—to the highly industrialized urban nation glorified by the World’s Fair itself—one of polarized wealth, vast and increasing numbers of unassimilated, unskilled workers, and a demand for a return to the old equality at the expense of the old concept of freedom. Turner’s thesis was threaded with observations of these changes, and made an attempt to account for them in terms of the changing geography of America. “Each frontier did indeed furnish a new field of opportunity, a gate of escape from the bondage of the past; and freshness, and confidence, and scorn of older society, impatience of its restraints and its ideas,” Turner wrote (Turner, 17).

Viewed from this perspective, freedom in pre-industrial frontier America was freedom from a dominant and centralized federal government and towards what Turner termed “that restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism” (Turner, 17). This definition is supported by writers like William Legget, and John C. Calhoun, who argued against the consolidation of broad political power in the hands of a few. However, that kind of freedom hinged on the opportunity for economic mobility for those seeking it,...

... middle of paper ...

...y which to govern it. The open frontier provided an outlet away from government and towards the individual, both politically and economically. On the most practical level, cheap land, requiring little capital investment, was always available in the territories and they offered a constant opportunity for economic advance as a result. Politically, the idea of frontier resonated with Americans as a place of almost anarchic individual freedom. The closing of the frontier symbolized both the end of the kind of unregulated economic growth and the distinct meaning of freedom that had been the hallmarks of the 19th Century.

Works Cited

Riis, Jacob. How the Other Half Lives. New York: Dover, 1971.

Turner, Frederick Jackson. “The Significance of Frontier in American History.” In The
Frontier in American History. <>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on The, Individualism, And The American Of American Culture

- The Unites States was established as a result of a struggle between autonomy and autocracy, and from this fight for freedom emerged a new idea that became vital to the American identity- individualism. According to Robert Bellah, “Individualism lies at the very core of American culture”, and it is absolutely basic to the American identity. Americans value and preserve the individual, and condemn anything that would undermine or violate the rights of the individual. Even though, as Bellah points out, individuality is the foundation of our aspirations, it is also the root of some of our greatest difficulties as individuals and a society....   [tags: Individualism, Individual, Individual rights]

Powerful Essays
757 words (2.2 pages)

Essay about Fortress Unionism by Rich Yesselson

- Across the United States there has been a decline in union membership. Looking back as far to 1954 the union work force had peaked at 34.7% but has since been in decline. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total number of union members fell by 400,000 in 2012 to 14.3 million even though the nation’s overall employment rose by 2.4 million (Greenhouse, 2013). In 2011 the percentage of union workers was 11.8% and in 2012 dropped to 11.3%, which is the lowest union membership has been since 1916....   [tags: decline of unions, political union]

Powerful Essays
2016 words (5.8 pages)

USA: The Land of the Individualism and Freedom Essay

- ... so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.” (Bradbury 156-157). It is a dream shared by many — to be able to leave behind a mark so permanent as to instill yourself in history forever, to be set apart from the nameless mass of ordinary people, to be somebody. People wish to become the next big superstar, the next Bill Gates, the next Albert Einstein, the next Mark Zuckerberg, the next Thomas Edison, or the next President of the United States....   [tags: opportunity, melting pot]

Powerful Essays
1429 words (4.1 pages)

Individualism And Collectivism Essay

- Culture forms the framework for our thoughts and behavior and is defined as sets of values and principles individuals have about how nature and society work, as well as the norms of behavior, derived from that set of values (Gorodnichenko & Roland, 2014). According to Heine (2012), cultures that are individualistic include a variety of customs that encourage individuals to place their own personal goals ahead of those of the collective. In contrast, cultures that are collectivistic include many cultural practices, institutions, and customs that encourage individuals to place more emphasis on collective goals....   [tags: Collectivism, Culture, Individual, Individualism]

Powerful Essays
1230 words (3.5 pages)

Essay On Individualism And Collectivism

- The Mental Effects on Individualism and Collectivism Ideology Individualism and Collectivism are two well-known theories in sociology that is most commonly used when dealing with one’s culture, core beliefs and core values. The cross-culture of individualism and collectivism some benefits; however, these two ideologies have some flaws that must improve. These two cross-culture ideologies have psychological application that can affect our minds and can result to mental illness such as suicide, depression, anxiety disorders, unhealthy relationship and other more, that can result to a big problem in our society, for it has a lot of negative effects in someone’s mind....   [tags: Sociology, Collectivism, Individualism]

Powerful Essays
1108 words (3.2 pages)

Individualism In An Individualistic Society Essays

- For many centuries there has been arguments between whether a society should be collective or individualistic. In an individualistic society, the idea is that the individual's life belongs to him and he has the right to pursue what he wishes. In a collective society, the individual's life belongs to the group and the individual must sacrifice the values they hold for the “greater good” of the group. The main question asked in this debate is whether an individual's life belongs to him or does it belong to the group....   [tags: Individualism, Collectivism, Individual, Anarchism]

Powerful Essays
970 words (2.8 pages)

What is the Meaning of Freedom? Essay

- Freedom is often spoken of in what can be referred to as a loose sense of the word. One country has more freedom than another; a twenty-one year old has more freedom than a fifteen year old. What exactly does this word mean. For different people it may mean different things, but there has to be an equilibrium that can be reached in order to determine the meaning of freedom itself. In one form, freedom can mean that a person has "exemption from an obligation."* If only the root (free) is looked at, it can be interpreted that one is "not under the control or power of another."* However often the latter definition is used, it is also disagreed with, and for good reason: there is always a rule...   [tags: What Does Freedom Mean?]

Free Essays
373 words (1.1 pages)

Essay about The Meaning of Freedom

- For centuries the word "freedom" has been a topic of debate, and for good reason. There are so many different views of what freedom truly means and what influences it has on our daily lives. According to the American Heritage College Dictionary the word freedom means "The Condition of being free of constraints. To me, the word freedom is being able to achieve anything you want to. It is being able to change your surrounding environment how you want it to be. Many questions have been asked about whether we are truly free of constraints or if everything is predetermined by events that have already transpired....   [tags: Freedom Liberty US Democracy]

Powerful Essays
1636 words (4.7 pages)

Individualism Essay

- Individualism 1) An individualist is considered to be someone with personality and character, someone who is not easily intimidated by social pressure or customs, someone with a personal opinion and a singular view of the world. Because modern society finds it important that people think independently, decide autonomously and take personal initiatives, the concept of individualism has acquired a positive connotation. However, individualism is also linked with the tendency to withdraw from social life and turn in towards oneself....   [tags: essays papers]

Powerful Essays
1281 words (3.7 pages)

Individualist Essay

- In Defense of the Individualist Throughout history it has been the individualists, like Henry Ford and Rosa Parks, who have led nations, formed common groups, and made the greatest impact. However, people, such as the author, Michael Walzer, of “Multiculturalism and Individualism,” condemn the independent person as an unreliable “footloose” and “empty” creature (533). This denouncement of the socially unrestrained human is the fearful reaction to the power that these individuals can possesse. Nonetheless, strong individuals form the foundation of the world’s progress in technological and social fields because of their willingness to question and create....   [tags: essays research papers]

Powerful Essays
534 words (1.5 pages)