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New Wealth in the New World: The “Nouveau Riche,” Temporality, and Social Order in the United States from the 1860s to the 1920s

Reinhild Kreis

Pages 377 - 400



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During the second half of the nineteenth century, the figure of the “nouveau riche” and the struggle between old money and new money populated novels, newspaper articles, theater plays, and gossip columns in the United States as well as many European countries. By drawing on the work of anthropologist Johannes Fabian, this article argues that it is the temporal dimension inherent to the figure of the “nouveau riche” that made it a powerful weapon in struggles over social order in Gilded Age America, a time during which economic developments challenged previous hierarchies. The categorial shift from wealth to descent, however, proved to be problematic because it challenged the narrative (and promise of) the American Dream and the figure of the “self-made man.”

Keywords: nouveau riche; Gilded Age; time; social order; millionaires

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