The consumer culture of the postwar society
This essay aims to shed light on the principles that shaped American society in the post war. The economic situation is the starting point of our analysis; since by analysing its consequences we mean to prove how the economic pattern that was developed in the fifties, eventually resulted in the development of an ideology which fosteredsegregation, as well as an homogenised society, with standarised interests and lack of critical attitude towards society and its evils.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, there was an unprecedented economic uproar. We learn through statistics, that American economy grew from just under $210 billion in 1946, to almost $1 trillion in 1970. such an economic boom enabled Americans to take part inthe consumer culture, which meant spending money on all sort of luxurious items. Nevertheless, it is essential to point out that not all the society as a whole was benefited in the same way; as a matter of fact, one in every four Americans was poor in the early 1960's. However, poverty was an issue middle class people would turn a blind eye to, they were proud of their economic system, one which,in their opinion, gave equal opportunities of success to all those who were willing to work and study. Later on they would realise this was not so, however that would not happen till the 1960's and the coming of its counterculture.
Another aspect which is worth highlighting as having shaped American society in the postwar, is the baby boom which is the name given to the sharp increase of thebirthrate in the years following the end of the war.
What were the causes of this phenomenon? the psychological factor must have played an important role; taking into account all the hardships and sorrow people had to undergo during the war, it was not at all surprising that they would be willing to have large families and that so much emphasis was placed on 'family togetherness'. On theother hand, the rise in the standard of living allowed middle-classes to rear large families. Anyway, it should also be taken into account that, in turn, the baby boom created demand for builders, manufactures and school systems, thus hastening the economy. That is why
the baby-boom can be regarded as both cause and effect of the burgeoning economy of the 1950's.
We can sum up this briefintroduction by stating that both the economic growth and the baby- boom phenomenon were key to the development of a new social and economic pattern : consumerism.
The impact of the economic uproar :
Having increased their income, middle-class Americans devoted much of their times to spending their money on new acquisitions which ranged from cars to all kind of imported food. The standard ofliving increased and the demand for better housing, cars and schools ( babies needed to receive proper education to succeed in the economic system) soared.
Companies competed among them to absorb the demands, so as to obtain all the consumers for themselves. 'Free enterprise' was the hallmark of their economy, however small corporations could not keep up with the large ones and were, sooner orlater, left out of competition. The economic growth had provided funds to be invested in the development of technology, and within a few years amazing advances in the field were achieved. However, these technological achievements would only profit big companies who could afford new computers and other devices; small corporations were shut out of the market.
Technological improvements led to themechanisation of labour, thus tasks that used to be done by two or three workers, were to be carried out by a single machine. This meant to speed up work in order to create a rapid rise in productivity. Nevertheless, the drawback was that this brought about technological unemployement. The technological boom also changed the agricultural pattern, farmers were displaced by huge companies with...
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