The Fall of Jeffersonian Philosphy in "The Grapes of Wrath" versus the Fall of Jacksonian philosphy in the Modern Day

Posts tagged “jeffersonian philosophy

The Fall of Jacksonian Capitalism

The US and many countries around the world have been pushed to the very brink of bankruptcy because of the fall of the Jacksonian philosophy

As the Jeffersonian ideal fell once its basis, agriculture, was removed caused the entire system to fall, the Jacksonian philosophy also experienced a crash when what it was based in failed it, as well, leading to not only a financial collapse in 1893, called “The Panic of 1893”, but, more recently, the financial collapse of 2008.

“The subprime mortgage crisis had a number of different causes, the main cause being mortgage brokers lending more frequently to unqualified home owners than in the past…
A factor on top of this was that banks began packaging these loans into bonds, then trading and insuring the newly created mortgage backed securities. With banks earning large sums from these bonds, the demand rose and mortgage brokers continue to lower their standards and push as many mortgages as they could to put them into the hands of the banks…
When the bubble finally burst, everything came crashing down. Homeowners were forced to default, banks — such as Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers — crumbled, the government bailed out other banks, and the stock market got destroyed. The effects of the bursting housing bubble are still being felt today” (Duronio Worst Collapses para. 30-32).

The Jacksonian philosophy, as stated previously, was focused on manufacturing and on financial institutions like financial markets and banks, but it also taught about the power of the individual and the belief that there must be as little regulation as possible to allow the best to flourish, this, however, becomes the flaw in the Jacksonian philosophy.

The Jacksonian philosophy is one that relies on the best and brightest making their way to the top, but, as Jeffersonian feared, corruption and greed also grows in severely under regulated systems into a “degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution” (see “The Jeffersonian Ideal” for citation). Once a system becomes unregulated, those who work within it may begin to make riskier and riskier decision and even begin to do illegal and unlawful deals for the stake of profits.

Billions upon billions were lost because of the extreme individualism and the lust for money which ruled in most financial institutions until the collapse of 2008.

As stated in the previous posts, the Jacksonian’s individualism comes to transform money into a form of differentiating oneself from everyone else and as a way for people to relate to one another as well as a way of attaining products which now can only be accessed by money and wealth. It is this obsession with money that spurns those in the financial institutions and the corporations to engage in this sort of risk-taking with money and with the country’s finances.

And, just as how the Jacksonian arises after the fall of the Jeffersonian during the Great Depression and in Steinbeck’s book, the fall of the Jacksonian in our time has led to a resurgence in the Jeffersonian belief, as evident by the growing movements towards eating as much locally-grown food as possible and the rise of environmentalism affording a new connection with the earth that was lost even during the Joads time, illustrated by the squatting farmers in the dust and the driver of the tractor seated on his metal seat high up in the air. But, The Grapes of Wrath also alludes to the fact that neither philosophy ever really disappears when Rose of Sharon nurses the starving man with her breast milk, illustrating the Jeffersonian ideal of community and agrarianism can still returning and that it will be waiting until the Jacksonian falls once again.

The Jeffersonian is rising again!

Works Cited:
-Duronio, Ben. The Greatest Economic Collapses in History. Business Insider. 3 Jul. 2012. Retrieved 27 Nov. 2012. Online.


The Jacksonian Ideal

The Man Behind the Ideas

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.

The Joads will most likely never take part in Jacksonian society because of where they came from despite the Jacksonian belief in becoming more than your birth

Works Cited:
-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.

The Fall of Jeffersonian Agrarianism

Sandstorms were so bad during the ’30s that schools would actually close on days when they were bad enough.

Unfortunately for the Joad Family and thousands of others who lived at the time, what comes up, must eventually come back down again and, when everything is geared around agriculture and farming, if nature fails, as it did during the 1930s, then the economy fails.

Several other factors contributed to the fall of Jefferson’s agrarian vision, but it is the major drought that hit during the 1930s because it is the primary reason why so many farmers went out of business and because the agrarian aspect of Jefferson’s plan failed. An agrarian system is based in the land and many, perhaps even the majority, of people during the period had their livelihoods based in the land in which they toiled. When the drought hit, it destroyed the base in which the economy was set and it uprooted many families who lost their main source of income. As illustrated in Steinbeck’s book, “many of those who did become land owners found – either by circumstance or character – the responsibilities of ownership too difficult to maintain and lost their property to indebtedness or simply fled to greener pastures in the west” (Curtis Reconstruction 2), which is exactly what happened in The Grapes of Wrath when the owners of the farms had to sell them to the banks in order to pay back money they had borrowed to survive and wait for the rains to return, which they never did.

This is what many of the farms looked like at the time

“Conditions grew steadily worse. If crops were good one year in certain parts of the province, the price of wheat was too low to enable farmers to make profit or to build up reserves. Except for the poor-soil areas in the extreme north, almost every farm was completely dried out during some years. Many did not yield a decent crop for six or seven years. It is impossible to exaggerate the extent to which the social, economic, and political life of the province was affected by the depression in the ‘thirties” (Lipset Agrarian Socialism 199). Though a description of Saskatchewan during the 1930s, the Joads must endure incredibly similar circumstances, if not identical:

“The owner sat in the cars and explained. You know the land is poor. You’ve scrabbled at it long enough, God Knows.
The squatting tenant men nodded and wondered and drew figures in the dust, and yes, they knew, God knows. If the dust only wouldn’t fly. If the top would only stay on the soil, it might not be so bad…
Well, it’s too late. And the owner men explained the workings and the thinkings of the monster that was stronger than they were. A man can hold land if he can just eat and pay taxes: he can do that.
Yes, he can do that until his crops fail one day and he had to borrow money from the bank” (S

This could be what the Joads actually looked like, only their family was larger

teinbeck 32).

The owner and the tenant also discuss the price of cotton, how it may go up, but the owner will eventually come back by saying the farm is to be sold. The drought turned the land against the farmers and, coupled with the fall in the prices of natural products, lead the agrarian vision to fall and for it to be swiftly replaced by a system which would provide the much-needed profits that producers and business leaders had been looking for, Jacksonian capitalism.

Works Cited
-Lipset, Seymour M. Agrarian Socialism: The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in Saskatchewan: a Study in Sociology. University California Press. 1971. Retrieved 25 Nov. 2012. Online.
-Curtis, Christopher Michael. Thomas Watson and the Populist Reconstruction of Jeffersonian Agrarianism. 1999. Retrieved 25 Nov. 2012. Online.

The Jeffersonian Ideal

The main philosophy that was dominant in America at the time of the Great Depression was that of the Jeffersonian agrarian. This viewpoint is often considered to be the way of the “old” America, which had a largely agriculturally based economy.

“The creation of the United States of America coincided with a time when European intellectuals were reassessing the place of agriculture in society. The concept of farming (and the farmer) was taking on a new, elevated status in the minds of the day. This notion of the noble cultivator became a part of the foundation of the new democracy. The Garden would be tilled by free citizens, possessing all the virtues bestowed by the Creator upon the husbandman.
“The yeoman became a feature in American politics very early…The Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson, believed in the primacy of local government and a mainly agrarian national economy, based on small independent farmers” (Perspectives 1).

Agrarianism sets the farmer at a key place in society, becoming the moral backbone of the nation and has since transformed into the idea that the common person in America holds and governs the moral power in the nation. The farmers, which was a much more common profession during the period and without large manufacturers, became the main base on which the economy became founded and they therefore became the main suppliers of raw materials, mainly natural fibers like flax, wool and, especially, cotton.

There was several other reasons for Jefferson’s focus on agrarianism, mainly the desire to never be dependent on another country for business and economic strength.

“While we have land to labor then, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a workbench, or twirling a distaff. Carpenters, masons, smiths, are wanting in husbandry: but, for the general operations of manufacture, let our work-shops remain in Europe. It is better to carry provisions and materials to workmen there, than bring them to the provisions and materials, and with them their manners and principles. The loss by the transportation of commodities across the Atlantic will be made up in happiness and permanence of government. The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body. It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution” (Voelker Agrarian para. 4).

Jefferson saw that there are a huge potential in the vastness of America’s agricultural resources and felt that, if they focused more on manufacturing, then they would be dependent on another country to supply the raw materials for the plants. Agrarianism was a move to secure America’s independence from Europe and from the large corporations that would use the land, which they had no connection to, and would destabilize the country.

The Joad Family and many others in Steinbeck’s book are the agrarian people of Jefferson’s vision, they are not highly

educated (though he was not against the idea of educating the masses), but they are the ones who are close to the land, who know the land and give back to it as they do several times in the book when they send their coffee grounds “back to the earth”. Jefferson’s agrarian vision also taught about communal good and about the importance of coming together to work towards a common good and the government camp which they come to where everything is worked out and run by those who live in the camp is a perfect example of what Jefferson was envisioning for the country, even the fact that the government set up the camp plays to the agrarian ideal. And they also illustrate the Jeffersonian hatred for urban centers because anywhere they go that nears the city or anywhere near the metropolitan areas, they are shunned and ostracized, like Jefferson’s ideals often were when they were spoken aloud in the cities.

Works Cited
-Voelker, David, J. Thomas Jefferson Articulates the Agrarian Ideology. 2006. Retrieved 24 Nov. 2012. Online.
-Perspectives on how land has shaped the American character. 2003. Retrieved 24 Nov. 2012. Online.


If you look back through world history, you will find many periods of great social and political upheaval and these periods are rarely ever come out of the blue, almost always there are significant events which trigger the shift. The Great Depression is a perfect example of just such an event.

“The timing and severity of the Great Depression varied substantially across countries. The Depression was particularly long and severe in the United States and Europe; it was milder in Japan and much of Latin America. Perhaps not surprisingly, the worst depression ever experienced stemmed from a multitude of causes. Declines in consumer demand, financial panics, and misguided government policies caused economic output to fall in the United States…The Great Depression brought about fundamental changes in economic institutions, macroeconomic policy, and economic theory” (Romer Great Depression 1).

Many different events coincided to bring about the economic crash of the Great Depression, but probably one of the biggest causes in the US was the massive drought that hit during the period, a drought that was only surpassed by the drought that hit in 2011-2012. This drought decimated the crops and destroyed much of the country’s farmland. This drought was one of the reasons why the Great Depression was so difficult for the US to overcome and this period is chronicled in one of the US’s greatest classics, The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck.

In Chapter 1 of the book, Steinbeck describes how the drought effects the crops and how the lack of rains transforms the land:

“The sun flared down on the growing corn day after day until a line of brown spread along the edge of each green bayonet. The clouds appeared, and went away, and in a while they did not try any more. The weeds grew darker green to protect themselves, and they did not spread any more. The surface of the earth crusted, a thing hard crust, and as the sky became pale, so the earth became pale, pink in the red country and white in the grey country” (1).

It is the drought and the economic crash which triggered massive shifts in the socioideological world, one being the rise of the socialist movement and another being the collapse of the Jeffersonian agrarian philosophy and the rise of the Jacksonian capitalist ideology. As the agriculture industry fell, the idea of the Jacksonian philosophy of efficient and making as much profit as possible took over from the collectivist, agrarian view of the Jeffersonian ideology and what we are seeing now after the collapse of 2008 is a reversal of these viewpoints.

Now that the banking industry has gone into freefall, the dominant gearing of the economy and the social viewpoint has begun to shift, just as it did back during the Great Depression, but now the Jacksonian ideal is the one that is falling and the Jeffersonian philosophy is the one which is starting to gain momentum once again and both of these philosophies have imprinted themselves on Steinbeck’s novel, so it will be used in order to help in illustrating these conflicting and opposing viewpoints.

Works Cited:

-Romer, Christina D. Great Depression. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 20 Dec. 2003. Retrieved 24 Nov. 2012. Online.