The History of American Consumerism and its Relationship with Societal Development

When World War II ended in 1945 ; America started an economic roar that brought prosperity to many of its citizens and invoked a belief that societal and economic jobs that arose could be solved. Not merely was there prosperity but societal issues such as the battle for equality for adult females and minorities were brought to the head of American heads. The American Paradox, as presented by Steven Gillon, was that as Americans faced a new degree of consumerism and philistinism, the mass civilization that was brushing the state stole at the nucleus of the American Identity and individuality. Gillon argues that the “paradox of prosperity” [ 1 ] allowed Americans to go secure in their places but this allowed for more conformance and a forfeit of individuality.

In the old ages following the World War, Americans experienced an unprecedented growing in consumer disbursement and demand for new merchandise. Demand for places, cars, and the latest in engineering, paved the manner for the alteration in American conformance. Stephanie Coontz, in her essay,Families in the Fiftiess: The Way We Never Were,wrote that the American household, “The happy, homogenous households that we ‘remember’ from the 1950s were therefore partially a consequence of the media’s denial of diversity.” [ 2 ] Coontz showcases that Americans today that reflect back on this epoch see the homogenised version of the household and life style that was represented by the media, telecasting and wireless. To her this is a ill service since “fewer than 10 % of American households meet the ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ model.” [ 3 ]

Coontz besides delves into the American household life while at the same clip concentrating on the traditional values at the nucleus of the atomic household. Birth rates were up and comparative stableness was seen in matrimony and perceived gender functions. She besides focused straight on the function of the ideal household and what perceived quality of life was like for a adult female in the 1950s, particularly in adult females in the function of female parent and married woman. Her analysis of the times and how women’s functions cast a critical oculus over the epoch and did non look to be cast in the shadow of nostalgia.

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Coontz does agrees that prosperity was linked to economic betterments for households, more occupations, better lodging and with more people in the work force, households conformed to the “ideal” atomic household with the hubby heading to his occupation and the married woman maintaining a stable place. But Coontz besides indicates that this prosperity had a impudent side with poorness degrees still feasible without societal services that are more available now. Coontz’s portraiture is of a darker household life and she besides spoke to the poorness degrees and acknowledges that there were, in fact, realistic negatives being faced by Americans in the 50s and acknowledges the function of the adult female may hold been perceived to be more luring than it really was due to the norms set by society.

In contrast, many saw the station war period as a clip of prosperity and powerful consumer influence. In 1959, with the rise targeted advertisement many could see the influence extend from grownups towards adolescents. With the American paradox of homogenisation in full swing, adolescents were speedy to “surround themselves with a antic array of garish…expensive baubles.” [ 4 ] Advertisers were speedy to see the potency in the teenage market and exhausted 1000000s on advertisement directed at the adolescent population. [ 5 ] But as teens easy became even more critical to the American economic system, the paradox of conformance started to alter as teens became less likely to watch the same telecastings shows or frock like their equals which they had been encouraged to make. There were rebellious teens that took their new sense of individualism, which philistinism had provided them, and bought the music they wanted and held occupations that allowed them that freedom. [ 6 ]

The addition in income besides saw the enlargement of industries that supported American’s quest to travel to the suburbs and gaining control the “suburban home” dream. [ 7 ] As suburbs became developed, standardisation became more path. Suburban places were developed in a mass market outlook, with cooky cutter layouts and consistent pricing. One place in Cherry Hill, New Jersey would look and experience the same as a place in Anaheim, California. [ 8 ] In its standardisation, the American paradox was at full show. While Americans wanted more material ownerships with the suburban place their ideal, in order to ease the high demand for places in the suburbs, places had to be produced as rapidly and every bit cheaply as possible eating into the paradox of conformance.

There were those that felt that “the repute for conformance has likely been overstated.” [ 9 ] Thomas Hine, in his essayThe Luckiest Generation,argues that the outlooks that one would anticipate to happen in a suburban community, are non derived from the community aspect expected in a development but were stemmed from anxiousness to suit into this new society. [ 10 ] Hine points out that there was a category prejudice at drama and that many had “far higher outlooks for suburbia” than the occupants of suburbia themselves did. [ 11 ] Many changed how they lived in order to conform to the society that they had adopted.

Television exploded in popularity during the station war period. It was one of the shaping symbols of prosperity and by 1960 “nine out of every 10 American places had a TV.” [ 12 ] Television besides contributed to the American paradox by altering the cultural landscape into a shared, remarkable experience. As more Americans tuned into telecasting shows, the doors to the state opened as coverage of the civil rights motion was shown alongside telecasting shows demoing a blunt contrast of that idealised American household. As the popularity of telecasting grew, many were speedy to indicate out the hazards of what excessively much telecasting has done to us as a state. As advertizers spent 1000000s to monger their wares, the idea that “TV has distorted and debased salesmanship, stalking people with…commercials and slogans.” [ 13 ] As consumers spent more, possibly purchasing things they may hold non needed, there were those that wondered of exposure to excessively much telecasting is “turning the mean American into a stereotype.” [ 14 ]

Television in the 1950s embodied the American dream. Families were integral and life in the suburbs, male parents travelled to work while female parents stayed place and unbroken house. Families gathered at dark to watch the intelligence together and household scheduling. Television in the fiftiess besides introduced Americans to game shows and quiz games where blue-collared workers went up against physicians and attorneies for pecuniary awards. This embodied the “rags-to-riches notion” that anyone could see the American dream. Television besides brought frontward a tidal moving ridge of advertisement which fueled the American consumerism. Millions were spent by advertizers in order to showcase their merchandise, something that was antecedently impossible to make over the airwaves of wireless broadcasts. Americans scrambled to purchase the latest and greatest merchandises while advertizers created elusive ways of act uponing the populace. The enlargement and popularity of telecasting would come as a hurt to radio broadcasters, film houses, and print magazines as more Americans bought telecasting sets and consumed the broadcasts from their places.

Though minorities were non featured on broadcast telecasting, intelligence coverage on telecasting would besides impel Americans into a front row place of the civil rights motion go oning in the state. It would besides unleash a new type of evangelism as sermonizers of faith would go famous persons as they preached about the immoralities of Communism, feeding on the frights of many Americans and turning a net income while they did so. Evangelicals besides spoke out against the rise of philistinism and consumerism. Church attending reached record highs as many preached about the “capitalist ( that ) wants more profit” and “in malice of our riches…our whole economic system is geared towards acquiring more.” [ 15 ] Many sermonizers pointed out that as the state turned its focal point towards deriving more material ownerships, they were turning off from the basicss of household and faith ; another measure into the American paradox.

The station war period saw a alteration non merely in consumer disbursement and exposure but in whole new bureaucratic complexness, with the federal authorities taking on more of a function in American’s day-to-day lives. The shadow of the cold war touched at every citizen doing insecurity and besides endorsed the impression of American paradox as it leeched away the sense of single command. Now, stuff comfort was non the lone alteration, a new sense of hazard was simmering in American’s ideas as they realize that they were “slipping into a status of greater exposure and dependency.” [ 16 ] Homogenization of civilization, “decline in cultural cultures…class and regional differences” were marks of national civilization and the paradox of uniformity.

But even as Americans flourished under the new degrees of prosperity and addition, most Americans did non understand that this prosperity was built on political orientation and Torahs that President Truman had laid out with the “Fair Deal” and the enlargement of main roads laid out by President Eisenhower’s disposal. President Eisenhower, particularly, understood the paradox of “rising outlooks and traditional values” naming his political doctrine “dynamic conservatism” which was a contemplation of conservative positions in respects to finance and broad human-centered positions. [ 17 ] Eisenhower worked to change by reversal many of the trades laid out in Truman’s New Deal and his precedence was to command authorities disbursement. Many of his fellow conservativists were speedy to indicate out that the societal plans that were “intended to improve” conditions for the hapless and “reduce juvenile delinquency…has worsen the …conditions of the poor.” [ 18 ] Leading conservative economic expert Milton Friedman points out that “government steps have hampered non helped.” [ 19 ]

President Johnson rolled out his Great Society successfully in portion because it was rooted in policies that FDR and his New Deal every bit good as Truman’s Fair Deal plans started. President Johnson inherited the mantle from an assassinated President and rapidly asked Congress “ to transport frontward the programs and plans of old President John Fitzgerald Kennedy” [ 20 ] which besides helped force through Johnson’s plans under the weight of the Kennedy mantle. Critics of Johnson’s Great Society, chiefly conservatives, felt that the plans that Johnson pushed through was the “government tally amok” [ 21 ] Conservatives point out the “welfare mess” and “wasteful hodge podge” [ 22 ] of Johnson’s plans. Groups, such as Black Power motion and New Left, besides voiced their unfavorable judgment of the Great Society plans. Conservative Ronald Regan would utilize the booby traps of the Great Society as his primary platform in his run and work to extinguish public assistance in the 1980s. Johnson’s plans could hold been different if the costs of war had been factored in. The plans benefited in-between category Whites but Johnson was focused on extinguishing poorness and gained the perceptual experience of “too many benefits on African Americans” [ 23 ] As the Civil Rights motion progressed, progressives started to see the support of white Southerners and bluish collar white cultural electors start to steal off. President Johnson’s failures lie within the execution of his Great Society.

But as the state marched frontward, the American paradox of individuality and traditionality would collide as gender functions and the civil rights motion moved to forefront of American civilization. There was tremendous societal force per unit area for adult females to conform to the expected gender function of married woman, female parent, and housekeeper. Colleges actively worked to deter adult females from seeking out a college instruction and as a consequence, Betty Friedan wrote a land interrupting book,The Feminine Mystique.The book includes interviews she had conducted with other adult females from her college, Smith College, and in it, she challenged adult females to turn to the job that adult females were facing and alter their lives. “I sensed the problem…heard from other adult females. I think I understood foremost as adult females long before I understood their larger societal and psychological implications.” [ 24 ]

By the sixtiess, a 2nd moving ridge of mainstream feminism was emerging across the cultural American landscape. While traveling on the heels of the civil rights motion, many women’s right advocators sought release and in making so, “they hoped to refashion the male world” and by specifying themselves in a call to action that was by adult females, for adult females. [ 25 ] This motion altered the perceptual experience and functions of adult females in mainstream American civilization by conveying to the head the clang of public political orientation and private gender every bit good as presenting a new definition in the function of adult females. No longer was gender a concealed and private venture nor were conversations around feminism and women’s rights non being held. Media in both print and telecasting were encompassing the altering functions of adult females and sex.

By the sixtiess and 1970s, many of immature grownups started to populate together without the benefit of matrimony. Beth Baily points out, in her essay Sexual Revolution ( s ) , that many of these young persons didn’t view their life state of affairss any different than their married opposite numbers and believed them to be committed and honest relationships. The concluding minute, harmonizing to Bailey, was that these immature grownups were “actively claim ( ing ) ” that they were prosecuting in sex and sexual behaviours outside of the public political orientation and perceptual experience. [ 26 ]

Another alteration to the mainstream civilization was the flourish of media. There were feminist magazines such as MS. that had articles and commentaries around women’s release and political orientation behind the motion. [ 27 ] This magazine was created by Gloria Steinem, a taking women’s release militant and journalist. With this magazine, came an mercantile establishment for narratives that would go the head of the soci-political alteration of these decennaries including narratives on domestic force and abortion, the first of their clip. Playboy, would besides profit for the sexual revolution of the sixtiess and 1970s as Hugh Hefner’s political orientation at the perceptual experience of adult females and functions of sex would boom during these decennaries. [ 28 ] Helen Gurley Brown would besides revolutionise the position of adult females through media with the launch of her magazine, Cosmopolitan in 1965. [ 29 ] The function of the magazine was to observe being a individual adult female and “sexual and material consumerism.” [ 30 ]

Without the women’s release motion, women’s advocators, youth sexual revolution and equal rights push ; many of the magazines would non hold been created or pushed frontward. The platform to arouse conversations around women’s issues, women’s perceptual experience in sex functions, and the work of antifeminists every bit good, would hold been a nothingness that would still be today.

The counterculture motion that tied the American paradox of conformance with that of the lifting outlooks could be seen in the enlargement of women’s functions outside of the traditional outlooks, the continued enlargement of consumerism into the bend of the century with America’s blatant demand more the latest and greatest and the government’s increasing function of superintendent in both fiscal and humanistic footings. Americans would come to footings with the enlargement of Federal power as their disbursement was met every bit by governmental ordinances. This would besides include societal ordinances, as the Supreme Court passed Torahs that would order the integration of schools, freedom over pick for adult females, and enlargement of women’s functions outside of the place via the Equal Rights Act. The paradox of expansive outlooks was merely limited by the societal worlds shaped by Americans in a postwar America.


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