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By Michael Spindler
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Additional resources for American Literature and Social Change: William Dean Howells to Arthur Miller
Formal political equality still existed between the owners of the factories and the men who worked in them. Carnegie or Rockefeller, like the newly enfranchised immigrant on the shop floor, had only one vote to cast, but wealth was more than merely honorific; because of its unprecedented concentration it had become powerful, capable of exerting widespread political influence and bending the democratic processes. Also , the exercise of that influence could secure yet more wealth through land speculation, say, or through acting as banker to the government.
The Social-Darwinian and Naturalist insistence on a mechanomaterialist nature as a paradigm for society was part of a production mentality, reflecting the society's dependence upon the genuine forces of nature during the production-oriented phase for the harnessing of energy and the transformation of raw materials into commodities. This 'natu re' was less the concrete, richly variegated nature that the early settlers experienced than an abstract, theoretical nature made up of scientific laws and forces .
Realism and Naturalism with their positivist emphasis on the primacy of fact and their preoccupation with new social formations articulated in a general wayan historically specific capitalist mentality. We now turn to a detailed reading of individual texts, grouped according to two general themes, to examine how the ideological confusions and contradictions created by rapid social change were dramatised there . 3 The Rise of the Entrepreneur in the Work of Howells, Norris and Dreiser During the late nineteenth century a novel social type, the millionaire manufacturer and financier , came to prominence on the American scene and provided writers with compelling literary subject-matter.