"Scott Sandage, an associate professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University and author of Born Losers: A History of Failure in America explains that America's relationship with failure has evolved over time, noting that the word initially applied only to matters of business, not character.
Up until the Civil War, he argues, people who suffered economic misfortune were described as making a failure, not being a failure. Sandage asks: "Why have we as a culture embraced modes of identity where we measure our souls using business models?"
The answer, he suggests, has to do with the end of slavery. Around that time, Sandage says, the two primary identities in American life shifted from "slave" and "free" to "success" and "failure." - Evan R. Goldstein
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