The Jacksonian Ideal
Because of the fall of Jefferson’s agrarian ideal and because of the huge drought that hit North America, the gearing of the America economy swiftly shifted in order to be able to keep functioning and, though Jackson was president in the early half of the 1800s, his concepts were really the first ones of their kind and thus formed the basis of all other similar philosophies, including the ones that effect the Joad Family and others in the Great Depression. Turning away from the basis in community and agriculture, the US moved to the other end of the spectrum and went to the Jacksonian ideal of capitalism, where the sense of community and helping one another in order to succeed was replaced with a sense of rugged individualism and the belief that the system should be geared with as little intervention from the government so that those who are worthy will rise to the surface naturally, as well as substituting the basis in agriculture towards manufacturing and financial markets.
“One of the key factors behind the development of Jacksonian democracy and its emphasis on the self-made man was the market revolution, the broadening incorporation of more and more Americans into market relations in terms of selling their labor and their products and in terms of buying the goods they consumed” (Jacksonian Democracy 1).
The Jacksonian philosophy did not just effect the way the country’s economy ran, but it also effected the way in which the people led their lives, as well. Jefferson wanted to focus on having a connection with the soil and where they themselves made most of the products they had and that they consume what they produce, Jacksonian philosophy encouraged that people sell what they produce and instead buy what they need. This concept can be easily illustrated when the Joads move to the orchard where they pick peaches and, once their peaches are traded in, they receive their money that they then use to buy whatever they need.
Another tenant of Jacksonian philosophy is the strong sense of individualism that is taught, as a counterpoint to the communal, traditional ideals that were taught through Jeffersonian teachings.
“Economic issues were of great significance to the Jacksonian generation because…in an individualistic society the uses of money are infinitely multiplied. It becomes the chief means not only to bind people together but also to allow them to stand above or apart from one another. Thus, the means for obtaining wealth, the tenure of its possession, and the uses to which it is put become intimately involved with questions concerning how individuals are to relate to each other” (Kohl Individualism 14).
The individualism that the Jacksonians brought in is one centred around money and wealth, but also one about hard work because that was the way in which one acquired money. Thereby, by this logic, if someone did not have money, it was because they did not work hard enough and because they did not want to be a part of society, only desiring to be given everything and to be left alone. It is often because of this mentality that the Joads are treated so harshly once they come into California where they are poor and hopping from camp to camp. California is an urban centre where Jacksonian philosophy has taken root and where people like the Joads are considered no good due to the fact of the belief that they should be able to make enough money to live well, like the rest of the state, but choose not to.
-Jacksonian Philosophy and the Ideal of the Self-Made Man. The Saylor Foundation. 2004. Retrieved 25 Nov. 2012. Online.
-Kohl, Lawrence F. The Politics of Individualism: Parties and the American Character in the Jacksonian Era. Oxford University Press. 1991. Retrieved 25 Nov. 2012. Online. http://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=sY2iEA6piHcC&oi=fnd&pg=PA3&dq=jacksonian+individualism&ots=qExNAfN650&sig=99aq-tDlJ_TL_3NM1x8k7J2AT3Q&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false