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The Decay Of The American Culture

1505 words - 6 pages

Anxiety and affluence are terms that are often applied to the post war decades in an attempt to define them. The newfound wealth that Americans enjoyed after World War II wrought changes on the American social landscape that many may not have been able to predict. The push for heavy consumerism that accompanied the sudden upswing of the U.S. economy gave way to concerns about the decay of moral character in the American home. Increasingly filled with anxieties over the ever-present threat of Communism, which most Americans were aware was an issue they themselves could do little about, the population instead turned towards new distractions, such as television, to attempt to reclaim some sense of dominance in a world they no longer quite recognized. The failure of the device to soothe the nerves of anxious Americans can easily serve as a symbol for any case in which American prosperity increased, rather than alleviated, post war fears.
The years immediately following World War II were themselves an era of profound change for many Americans. Affluence was a relatively unknown condition in American society, and many struggled to understand what it would mean for them. A pamphlet distributed by the Advertising Council, Inc. entitled “The Miracle of America” was a method by which American advertisers sought to convince Americans of the value and importance of mass consumption. In it, Uncle Sam explains to a family that the reason why the American economic system is superior is due to its devotion to increasing the production of goods for the population to consume. In this description, the reason behind the increase in production of goods is stated as being so that “(Americans) can buy more…” Uncle Sam soon goes on to tell Junior and Sis that American consumption is tied to “security for all our people”. The notion that consumption beyond necessity could be effective to securing the livelihood of the American people was an idea that was tied to earlier proposals that under-consumption had been behind the Great Depression.
The affluence was itself a cause for concern for some Americans, who found themselves wringing their hands at what they deemed to be a softening of American moral character. A 1955 article from the U.S. News and World Report laid out for its readers the good and bad influences of the television on the American population. The overall tone of the article was one of concern that American youths were “[losing] the ability to read… their physical dexterity, strength, and initiative” , and that there was no hard proof denying the fact that “young people may not be negatively influenced in their present day behavior by the saturated exposure they now receive to … lawlessness and crime…”
Another reason for this increase in juvenile delinquency suggested to be a response to “the boredom … that parents and schools [impose]” by a sociologist in the article. According to Roland Marchand, the increase in wealth of American...

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