The period following the American civil war (1864-1865)

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The time following the American Civil War (1864-1865) was marked by the exponential rise of the American economy, which was a revolution not anticipated even by academics. All types of infrastructure, as well as features such as air travel, indoor plumbing, and television, revolutionized workstations and houses, while motor cars and electric lighting were among the new expressions of key breakthroughs (R. Gordon, 2015). Yet, despite its success, it is unclear whether the United States will continue to have unabated expansion in a variety of areas, including social, technological, economic, and political platforms. Consequently, The Rise and Fall of American Growth by one Robert J. Gordon holds a different opinion, which financial and growth challenges are inevitable for the US. Gordon is a proponent of the understanding that America has no chance of escaping such circumstantial resistance, and that factors like the stagnating education systems, the escalating rates of inequality, the rising debts of schooling generations, the aging American population, as well as the increasing federal government debt form the core of the momentum that is building to bring the US on a hold (R. J. Gordon, 2016). Therefore, it could be better understood within the scholarly confines that Gordon`s work is a harbinger and forerunner of what is looming and the radical nature of what would soon unfold as unprecedented.

In his work, “The Rise and Fall of American Growth,” Gordon takes a distinctive yet controversial trajectory of argument, a literary path that attracts more questions than any satisfactory answers. Indeed, it seems amazing when he affirms that the rapid economic growth and hence the developmental revolution Americans have been enjoying to date cannot be referred to as the due of the consistency in hardworking across millennia. Instead, Gordon contends that a one-time event, in the late nineteenth century, has been the reason behind all successful economic manifestations for the US (R. J. Gordon, 2016). He maintains that the inventions of the nineteenth century, which would later be refined and exploited for the better part of the early twentieth century, are the momentum behind the steady and reliable American growth from the 1920s to the 1970s. Consequently, anything affiliated to such growth is just a dwindling wave in effect of the former inventions, a case which will not be a future advantage anymore, according to Gordon (R. Gordon, 2015). Since the argument above herein and in his work is the thesis that forms the core of “The Rise and Fall of American Growth,” Gordon leaves most if not all of his audience wondering whether to agree with his school of thought or otherwise. A definite maybe could do. Nevertheless, it is a sure bet that everybody who reads Gordon`s work is compelled by facts and constructive opinions to think in a limited and restrictively critical understanding. The involvement of such technological and vivid daily live portrays only lead to a thorough economic analysis by Gordon. Whereas the author utilizes a lot of complex tables and charts in his explanations, in reality, his audience can never be led astray, as he makes comprehensive and straightforward depictions of what they connote in real life situations. Consequently, this book is meant to transform how people think, and significantly influence and challenge the views made after that.

On a critical analysis, most of the book has focused on the substantive changes that were experienced before the Second World War. Nevertheless, though many researchers dwelled in this period, the aggressive and deliberate arguments put forth by Gordon expressly make him rise above his peers in strategy and objective. Perhaps one of the landmark statements he makes of the era is that “Except in the rural South, daily life for every American changed beyond recognition between 1870 and 1940” (Gordon, 2015, P. 324). Evidently, the horses had been replaced by trains and outhouses by flush toilets, whale oil and candles too had been replaced by electricity, and the cars and air travel dominated the new forms of human transit (R. J. Gordon, 2016). Furthermore, the era was a replacement of the weary and gruesome forms of working in rural homes, as people realized what an employment meant. While most economists would exhaustively talk about and discuss the elements of economic growth through the purchasing capacity of the various commodities, Gordon in his book takes us one step further, to explain the significance of the nature of work and its value in payment on the growth of the economy. In essence, other than the interesting arguments Gordon postulates in his book, it does not form the backbone of his agenda either. Rather, he is more focused on the need of the society-shifting back and focusing on the period between 1870 and 1940 whenever necessary, and launch a new strategy after learning from such a rich history, to counter the present and future challenges in this discipline. Consequently, all founded and unfounded claims made by scholars apparently should be measured against the scale of that period in history, before a verdict is reached to whether they are substantial. Indeed, what Gordon says is basically meaningful, because, before the onset of the Second World War, American urban centers were already described as modern. Electricity, piped water, flush toilets, television, and internet connectivity were a reality, whose absence was annoying, rather than disgusting. As such, the point that the American experience was an exponential growth between 1870 and 1940 as argues Gordon is henceforth affirmed (R. J. Gordon, 2016).

Gordon argues that while some of the Americans were already urbanized by 1940, the rest were not. However, the gap would be closed in the following three decades, when the inventions and developments made earlier on were quickly applied, refined, and spread to other parts of the country, to make lifestyle better. Unfortunately, after the 30 years development, everything began to stagnate, and it is the slowing down that Gordon calls a permanent experience. One wonders why Gordon does not embrace and appreciate the recent wonders of technological inventions that have rocked and globalized the world to date. It is a great belief and an enthusiastic acclaim among not only Americans but also across the world that computer-related inventions have made economic growth robust and reinforced livelihoods. However, Gordon makes two critical claims to convince the techno-optimist world that such is not the true position. To begin with, Gordon says that big inventions frequently change the way in which people live, work, operate their businesses, and how economies function for an extended period. Well, there is evidence that such was witnessed in the mid-1990s and the early 2000s. However, the rapid change has since come to a standstill, hence confirming that what Gordon argues that the background of modern inventions already happened in the nineteenth century (R. Gordon, 2015). Secondly, Gordon explains that developmental understatement occurred more before the Second World War than it is today, hence the express notion that technological advancements alone cannot be the reason for a sustained economic growth across millennia.

In conclusion, therefore, Gordon is of the opinion that the future holds nothing new for Americans. He furthermore suggests that the living standards will stagnate, and such retrogressive experience would be due to the rising inequality and an aging American population as well as the lack of significant changes in the American leadership and academic segments. Such would be a big blow to the society that values and embraces the progressive lifestyle. Consequently, if what Gordon says were to hold, then more consequences would be inevitable, considering another two or three decades of political and economic stagnation in the US, being characterized by the declining income among the working class.


Gordon, R. (2015). The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.s. Standard of Living Since the Civil War Princeton Economic History of the Western World. The Enlightened Economist. Princeton University Press, 2017 ISBN 0691175802, 9780691175805. Retrieved from

Gordon, R. J. (2016). Perspectives on the rise and fall of American growth. In American Economic Review (Vol. 106, pp. 72–76).

May 10, 2023

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