Module 8 Assignment: Analyzing the Capitalist Hierarchy and Accompanying Viewpoints

Cartoon of the Pyramid of Capitalist System

Figure 1. This propaganda poster was adapted and widely circulated in the US (originally produced in Russia c. 1901). It demonstrates the hierarchy of the capitalist economic system, with the workers at the bottom, holding up the entire system, the middle class above them, and then the other tiers above them (the army, the clergy, and state officials), topped by a sack of money representing capitalism. On the sides you can see workers in a state of revolt. Although this image is from almost 50 years after the Civil War, it is relevant to the emerging social class system initiated during the Industrial Revolution.

For this assignment, you will answer the seven questions below based on the “Pyramid of Capitalist System” image above, keeping in mind your readings from this module. You may also do your own independent research on the topic, but be sure to cite your sources. For this assignment, you will practice using footnotes to cite your sources. This is good practice for reading and writing future research papers and professional documents.

How to Create Footnotes: This assignment will involve practice using footnotes for source documentation and citations. When you want to back up a claim or cite a fact, write the sentence out and then after the final punctuation, add a footnote. In Google Docs, you can do this by clicking ‘Insert’ and then ‘Footnote.’ In a Word document, click on the ‘References’ tab and then ‘Insert Footnote.’ Follow Chicago citation style for the citation format.

Footnotes Example

Captain America is unequivocally the best Avenger, both in terms of ‘super-human’ abilities and in terms of moral strength.1

In Captain America: The First Avenger, Dr. Erskine tells Steve that he must promise to stay who he is, “not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”2

1 Find a source that supports your claim and cite it here.

2 Joe Johnston et al., 2011. Captain America: The First Avenger. Hollywood, CA: Paramount Pictures.


Step 1: Update the Capitalist Pyramid

Answer the following questions:

  • Think about the Capitalist Pyramid image above in the context of the Antebellum U.S., where slavery was still a powerful economic institution, but manufacturing was on the rise. If this image was created prior to the Emancipation Proclamation, where would you put enslaved persons in this pyramid and how would you depict them? Answer in 3-4 sentences.
  • Consider how you added enslaved people to the pyramid. How would you update or change the other tiers to reflect the inclusion of slaves? Answer in 3-4 sentences.
  • In the image above, the working-class tier includes women and children. Based on your readings, do you feel that this inclusion is accurate? Should female workers and/or child workers be placed in a different tier? If so, repeat the exercise from Q1 and describe where you would place these workers, how you would depict them in the image, and why. If not, explain your reasoning using examples from the text. Answer in 5-6 sentences.

Note: If it helps you to visualize, you can sketch your new pyramid out on scratch paper. You do not need to turn this in! It is just a reference for you to use.

Step 2: Considering Distinct Perspectives on Industrialization

For each item below, note which tier this person would belong to on your new pyramid from Step 1, then write at least 5-6 sentences about how the growth of industrial manufacturing might affect or change that particular individual’s life. Use examples of specific events or policies from the reading. Note: You can get creative with this one! You could write in the first person, as if the individual is sending a letter, or you could write your answer in the form of a news article centered on that individual. You will not be graded on creativity, this is just an exercise to help you put yourself in someone else’s figurative shoes.

  • A 13-year old White girl living on a family farm in rural Massachusetts with three older brothers.
  • A 30-year old Black woman with two young children, enslaved on a cotton plantation in Virginia
  • An 18-year old Irish man who has recently immigrated from Ireland to Rochester, New York, and is looking for work so that he can send money back to his parents.
  • The 25-year old son of a wealthy and established colonial family in Boston, who is keen to make a name for himself in elite society after graduating from university.

Assignment Grading Rubric:

Criteria Poor Good Excellent Points
Updating the Capitalist Pyramid Answers are based on inaccurate information, faulty logic, or disrespectful premises, and do not meet length requirements. Answers are supported by factual evidence, but are vague or unclear, poorly thought out, may or may not meet length requirements. Answers are clear, thoughtful, concise, supported by factual evidence, respectful, and show critical thinking, meet length requirements. __/7
Distinct Perspectives Answers are poorly thought out, disrespectful, or factually inaccurate, do not meet length requirements. Answers are supported by facts, but are unclear or vague, shows a lack of understanding, may or may not meet length requirements. Answers are thoughtful, supported by facts, respectful, and clear, shows an understanding of how material relates to assignment, meets length requirements. __/7
Sources No sources or evidence provided, or sources are not presented in a way that makes fact checking possible. Sources or evidence are provided, but they are not completely accurate or connected to answer. Sources and evidence are relevant, clear, and connected to appropriate claims. __/4
Footnotes Footnotes are not used at all. Footnotes are incorrectly done or do not follow instructions Footnotes are used correctly, and follow provided instructions. __/2
Total __/20