43 Manly control over impulse also helped the middle class develop their distinctive family practices. Celebrations of manly self-restraint encouraged young men to postpone marriage until they could support a family in proper middle-class style, to work hard and live abstemiously so that they could amass the capital to go into business for themselves. 44 In short, by the end of the century, a discourse of manliness stressing self-mastery and restraint expressed and shaped middle-class identity. By the 1890s, however, both "manliness" and middle-class identity seemed to falter, partly because economic changes had rendered earlier ide- ologies of middle-class manhood less plausible. Middle-class manliness had been created in the context of a small-scale, competitive capitalism which had all but disappeared by 1910. Between 1870 and 1910, the proportion of middle-class men who were self-employed dropped from 67 percent to 37 percent. 45 At the same time, the rapid expansion oflow -level clerical work in stores and offices meant that young men beginning their careers as clerks were unlikely to gain promotion to responsible, well-paid management po- sitions, as their fathers had. 46 Moreover, between 1873 and 1896, a recur- ring round of severe economic depressions resulted in tens of thousands of bankruptcies and drove home the reality that even a successful, self-denyi ng small businessman might lose everything, unexpectedly and through no fault of his own. Under these conditions, the sons of the middle class faced the real possibility that traditional sources of male power and status would remain closed to them forever-that they would become failures instead of self-made men. Under these changing cor,ditions, manly self-denial grew increasingly RE MAK I N G M A N H OO D 13 unprofitable. No longer would the dream of manly inde pe ndent entrepre- neurship be achievable for most midd le-class men. In t hi s context, Victorian codes of manly self-restraint began to seem less relevant. Increasi ng ly, middle-class men were attracted to new ideals-ideals at odds with older codes of manliness. Concurrent with middle-class men 's narrowing career opportunities came new opportunities for commercial leisure. The growth of a consumer culture encouraged many middle-class men, faced with lowered career ex- pectations, to find identity in leisure instead of in work. 4 7 Ye t codes of manli- ness dictated they must work hard an d become economically independent. The consumer culture's ethos of pleasure and frivolity clash ed with ideals of manly self-restraint, further undermini ng the potency of middle-class man- liness. 48 Economically based changes in middle-class cu lture were thu s eroding the sense of manliness which remained so essential to nineteenth- ·entury men's identity.
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- Summer '14
- White people, manhood, Jack Johnson, middle-class men