This chapter explores the dramatic capitalist transition in Chicago in the three decades from the 1850s through the 1870s. A capitalist economy based in wage labor became predominant in Chicago during and after the Civil War, and a new bourgeoisie organized it to produce capital accumulation, reinvesting profits in transforming the production process as well as the nature of work. This system required a permanent wage-earning working class, and the mere existence of this class posed a challenge for men of Abraham Lincoln's social vision. The working class was also a social issue for those who found permanent wage earning to be legitimate, for their justification of it presupposed a standard of living that could support a dignified family life and considerable choice in purchasing products in the market.
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