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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Counterfactual Wiki: The Jungle

The Jungle                                                                          

Not From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

     For other uses, see Jungle (disambiguation).

The Jungle is a novel written by the American journalist and novelist Upton Sinclair.[1] Sinclair wrote the novel to portray the harsh conditions and exploited lives of working- and middle-class Americans in the United States.[2] The book also was a window into the American sausage-making industry, exposing rampant violations and unsavory practices and leading a large and vocal contingent to call for reforms.[3]

However, most readers regarded the book as essentially divisive and ideological. A Meat Inspection Act was proposed, but a Congress insulated by strong political parties ultimately voted it down after industry advocates condemned it. Politicians rebuffed questions about the putrid conditions in the sausage factories as short sighted and issue-centric, rather than pragmatic and coalition-building legislation more typical of Congress's work. As one Congress member put it: “In the regular party, conferences on issues are regarded as women’s work.”[4]

Even as support continued to grow for meaningful reform to curb the abuses in the sausage factories, politicians and intellectuals refused to reconsider the Act. Defending national leadership against widespread claims of back-scratching and logrolling, many academics explained them as signs of a healthy political system, not a corrupt one: “To demand high standards of democratic deliberation . . . is to potentially slow, dampen, or even deny the ability of energetic leadership to play its mobilizing function and enact effective policies in a timely way."[5]

The Jungle also depicts struggling working class conditions, failing social supports, deteriorating living conditions, and a hopelessness and isolation among many Americans. These elements are contrasted with the deeply rooted corruption of people in power. Critics, however, denounced Sinclair's themes as "a tail-chasing, tree-munching, all-consuming, ever expanding, and by now entirely counterproductive war on corruption. Perhaps the hardest of all default assumptions to reset is the idea that most of America’s political and governmental ills are the result of some version of corruption and that the remedy involves some version of amateurism."[6]

Reaction to Sinclair's Morals and Character                    

Though initially boasting strong sales, The Jungle went out of circulation after its second printing. A suspected anti-Semite and Socialist, and a sexual-abstinence advocate who nonetheless left his first wife following an adulterous affair, Sinclair's character was simply too fraught and outside the mainstream for a widespread paperback readership. 

Sinclair's initial support among writers and artists, with his interest in occult phenomena and experimentation with telepathy, also waned. Science-fiction author Robert A. Heinlein deeply supported Sinclair's ideas, although he attempted to distance himself later in his life.[7] 

In his novel, Mammonart, he suggested that Christianity was a religion that favored the rich and promoted a drop of standards. He was against it.[9]


1. The Jungle: Upton Sinclair's Roar Is Even Louder to Animal Advocates Today, Humane Society of the United States, March 10, 2006, archived from the original on January 6, 2010, retrieved June 10, 2010. 

2. "Upton Sinclair", Press in America, PB works.

3. Fox Election HQ, "Krauthammer: WikiLeaks Dump 'The Camera in the Sausage Factory'". 

4. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "'Bosses' and 'Reformers': A Profile of the New York Democrats," Commentary, June 1, 1961. 

5. Thad Williamson, The Tangled Relationship of Democracy, Leadership, and Justice in Urban America: A View from Richmond (2014). 

6. Jonathan Rauch, Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money, and Back-Room Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy (2015).

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