Gospel Of Wealth Summary & Study Guide
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 23-page guide for the short story “Gospel Of Wealth” by Andrew Carnegie includes detailed a summary and analysis, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 15 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Duty and Moral Responsibility and The American Dream.
Andrew Carnegie wrote “The Gospel of Wealth” in June 1889. Carnegie begins his treatise by identifying what he sees as the most significant problem of modern-day times: “the proper administration of wealth, so that the ties of brotherhood may still bind together the rich and poor in harmonious relationship” (1).
Carnegie mentions that, in the past, “there was little difference” (1) between the living situations of a leader of a community and those of the members of the community. To prove his point, Carnegie writes about a memory of “visiting the Sioux” (1); during this visit, he noticed that the residence of the chief looked “just like the others in external appearance” (1). Carnegie compares the living situations of the Sioux with the difference between “the palace of the millionaire and the cottage of the laborer with us to-day” (1) to demonstrate the changes in American society that have taken place over the years. These changes are not negative, but “essential for the progress of the race” (2). After all, Carnegie points out, “the ‘good old times’ were not good old times” (2) and besides, “whether the change be for good or ill, it is upon us, beyond our power to alter” (2).
According to Carnegie, the explanation for the change can be found in “the manufacture of product” (3), which requires a very different process now than before, when “ll intercourse between them is at an end” (5), friction between the two often results.
Similar to the price society pays for cheaper goods is the “price which society pays for the law of competition” (6). Despite the costly nature of competition, “while the law may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it insures the survival of the fittest in every department” (6). At least, the most talented people “soon create capital” (6), and some of these people “become interested in firms or corporations using millions” (6); they soon accumulate wealth, as it is essential that “successful operationshould be thus far profitable” (6).
Carnegie points out that objectors to this capitalist system, such as “the Socialist or Anarchist who seeks to overturn present conditions” (7), compromise civilization as a whole when they challenge “the right of the laborer to his hundred dollars in the savings bank and equally the legal right of the millionaire to his millions” (7). The individualism that movements like communism seek to destroy is “what is practicable now” (7). More importantly, the “destruction of the highest existing type of man” (7) means the destruction of “the highest results of human experience, the soil in which society so far has produced the best fruit” (7). With this assertion in mind, Carnegie is certain that “the only question with which we have to deal” (8) is this one: “What is the proper mode of administering wealth after the laws upon which civilization is founded have thrown it into the hands of the few?” (8).
Carnegie specifies three ways excess wealth can be put to use. The first concerns the case of inheritance, when the wealth is left to surviving family members, which Carnegie considers to be “the most injudicious” (9). He uses the examples of European traditions of inheritance that fail “to maintain the status of an hereditary class” (9) to support his argument, believing the practice to be a form of “misguided affection” (9)…