American Episcopalians, The Middle Ages, and the Quest for Community in the Progressive Era and the 1920s

  • Peter W. Williams
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The decades that followed the end of the Civil War raised issues for Americans with which their British counterparts had already begun to deal. The Industrial Revolution, of course, was the most dramatic of these upheavals. Beginning with the “dark satanic mills” of the English Midlands, the array of nations which would eventually come to be known as “industrial democracies” had to address not simply the technological and commercial transformation on an order of magnitude never encountered before, but had to cope with the social and cultural implications of this transformation as well. It is in this context, for example, that Karl Marx formulated his definitive critique of capitalism by formulating the labor theory of value and predicting a sort of secular apocalypse in which the bourgeoisie would be overthrown by the laboring classes. The discipline of sociology, previously subsumed in the American academy as a branch of moral theology, emerged in part through the generation of a taxonomy of social forms now clearly represented in the rapid erosion of Gemeinschaft by Geselbchaft in contemporary western societies. Religiously based analyses and critiques emerged by the late nineteenth century in such varying forms as the social Christianity taught by the Anglicans F.D. Maurice and Charles Kingsley in England, the Social Gospel among American Protestants, and the social encyclicals of the Roman Catholic papacy, beginning with Leo XIII’s enunciation of the doctrine of the “just wage” in his Rerum Novarum of 1891. Industrial capitalism had become the dominant form of economic life in the West, and its study and amelioration was rapidly becoming the most pressing issue for those concerned with individual and corporate well-being.


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© Stephanie Hayes-Healy 2005

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  • Peter W. Williams

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