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Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age (Columbia History of Urban Life) Hardcover – June 9, 2015

4.3 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

This social biography of Henry George is a beautifully written, deeply researched, carefully argued, and analytically nuanced book. O'Donnell's own prodigious research, as well as his talent for synthesizing the findings of other scholars, makes this a social and political history of Gilded Age America as seen through the lens of Henry George's extraordinary life.

(Daniel Czitrom, Mount Holyoke College)

We have long needed a modern account of the ideas of Henry George, one set in the context of the vast inequalities of wealth in the Gilded Age, the rise and fall of a powerful labor movement, and George's campaign for mayor of New York City in 1886. Edward O'Donnell has now provided it in a fascinating book that shows how the social realities and conflicts of that era speak to our own unequal times.

(Eric Foner, Columbia University)

At a time when issues of social inequality have moved again to the forefront of political debate, it is good to remind ourselves that, throughout the past two centuries, Americans have passionately contested the severe inequalities that went along with the spectacular economic development of the nation. In the nineteenth century, few voices were as powerful―and had as lasting an impact―as that of Henry George. O'Donnell's political biography is a brilliant introduction to George's life, ideas, and politics, showing that inequality can generate political movements that challenge the rich and powerful. Highly recommended.

(Sven Beckert, Harvard University)

A captivating portrait of the struggle between labor and capital during a formative period in the quest for workers' rights.

(Kirkus Reviews)

Timely and accessible.

(Sam Roberts The New York Times)

A detailed examination of Henry George and his radical critique of the Gilded Age economy.... Recommended.

(Choice)

A persuasive piece of history.

(Steve Fraser H-Socialisms)

Book Description

A long-overdue social biography of an activist who warned of the dangers of rising inequality and inspired a vibrant working class political culture in Gilded Age America.

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Product Details

  • Series: Columbia History of Urban Life
  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (June 9, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231120001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231120005
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #399,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Wineberg TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 26, 2015
Format: Hardcover
As with so many of the great minds, Henry George was struck by metaphorical lightning one day. It happened while riding on the outskirts of San Francisco. Stopping to inquire on the status of land being parceled, a worker told him it was selling for a thousand dollars an acre. Instantly, George understood that the price of land was what creates poverty. It took another decade for him to formalize his theory. He went so far as to posit land as a third factor in the equation of capital and labor. Landowners’ rents reduced the income of both capitalists and labor, yet it was the only factor that was not expandable. Capital and labor were fungible, but you couldn’t manufacture more land. He wrote a massive book, Progress and Poverty, which eventually became a worldwide bestseller (first he had to self publish it), the first economics book to do so. A good sign was that the Vatican banned his works.

Yet he wasn’t a socialist. He was thoroughly pro-capitalism; it was class conflict he abhorred, and his “single tax” was to be the great leveler, achieving for real what America thought of itself in theory. The solution was to tax all land. This would prevent speculation and prevent rents, as they would be taxed out of existence. It was not seizure; it was taxation. He said poverty was an artificial condition of man’s invention, and the single tax would correct the imbalance. He became such a celebrity in New York they nominated him to run for mayor in an era when inequality was getting critically ugly.

O’Donnell sets the stage expertly, recounting the various key events that snowballed into a unique and unexpected political opportunity for George and the labor movement.
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Format: Hardcover
Kudos and grateful thanks to Edward O'Donnell for creating this exceptionally interesting, well-researched and finely written history of Henry George and his times. Among the many strengths of this book are the author's placement of George's story within the context of the larger story of changing, and hotly contested, ideas about the relationship of democratic politics (and public policy) and the economy in the Gilded Age. The author reminds us that, in George's time, the words "political economy" were still used together, and leading thinkers, writers, politicians and labor organizers of a progressive stripe spoke very directly, with strong and unstinting language about many of the ugly and corrupt policies and practices, and outdated ideologies, that led to unjust levels of economic inequality and about the pernicious effects of unfettered laissez-faire capitalism. Mr. O'Donnell also nicely frames his discussion -- as Henry George apparently did in his writings well -- with reference to our collective ideas about republican citizenship, political and economic liberty, and independence. A great read, very highly recommended!
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Format: Hardcover
Edward O'Donnell's book is a not a traditional biography. Rather, O'Donnell uses Henry George as a lens through which to understand the political and social contexts of Gilded Age America, focusing especially on the years between 1877 and 1887. He provides a thoughtful and carefully nuanced account of the development of George's ideas and George's place within the world of 1880s working-class reform. In O'Donnell's hands both George's activism and the complexities of Gilded Age society and politics are discussed and explained with clarity and insight. This is a book that readers both inside and outside the academy can read and enjoy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This i an excellent study of Gilded Age inequality and how Americans dealt with it built around the story of Henry George. The big picture story of American economic progress and its accompanying poverty---and how George explained its source and solution----comes to its climax in the New York city 1886 campaign for Mayor. Professor O'Donnell knows the city of the Gilded Age as well as any working historian, and he knows how to report in depth on a political campaign, then assess its outcome and consequences. This is an important history, and an equally important commentary on the continuing problem of progress and poverty, national wealth and dramatic inequality. All Americans who care about their democracy will find this story helpful and challenging. David O'Brien, Holden Mass
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