Andrew Carnegie grew from humble origins to be one of the wealthiest men in the world in 1901. We will
look more at the life of Andrew Carnegie in class.
“On Wealth”, also known as “The Gospel of Wealth,” was an essay that Carnegie (car-NEG-ee) wrote in
The North American Review
one of the leading intellectual journals of America. Carnegie is
commenting on the growing disparity of wealth we talked about in class when we began this unit. He also
addresses the now roiling conflict between labor and capital that was mushrooming up all over the United
States. This is his rationalization of this conflict and why it should actually be no conflict at all.
Note that Carnegie makes a fleeting reference to Herbert Spencer. Carnegie admired Spencer, an English
philosopher whose ideas merged with Charles Darwin in Carnegie’s mind to establish a hierarchy of being
among humans. In this conception of the world, those who were the most successful had gained their
success because they were endowed with superior characteristics which placed them naturally at the top of
the heap. This attitude oversimplifies both the work of Spencer and of Darwin, while justifying what
Carnegie and other extremely wealthy industrialists had done to obtain their wealth.
Pay attention to how Carnegie
the acquisition of wealth, arguing that it is the natural result of
abilities that are more fit to prosper and that those abilities naturally make it correct that the wealthy
supervise the redistribution of their wealth after they have obtained it.
Study Guide for – Carnegie “On Wealth”