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Why Did Consumption And Leisure Patterns Of The 1950s And 1960s Earn This Era The Epithet Of The Affluent Society?

2211 words - 9 pages

To an extent Britain’s post-war years could be described as affluent. Consumption patterns in the mid twentieth century included the emergence of new household goods as well as the popular dominance of the motor car. Amongst modernisation the term of ‘teenager’ emerged as one of Britain’s main consumers. Leisure patterns embraced the contemporary appliances such as the dominance of television, the choice of cinema showings as well as the effect of Americanisation. Consumerism fever invaded all sectors of society as more and more people had better paid jobs and more free time. However in describing Britain’s post-war society it is important how we define the terms. Consumption is how the British people absorbed the modern possessions of the household and how they influenced their free time. Consumption also includes how modern trappings affected peoples lives. Leisure patterns describe what seized the attention of the public as a whole and that most of the population had more time to spend as they wished. Affluence describes the prosperity of society and how they have a great deal of wealth. Although Britain did prosper during the post war period, it is inaccurate to describe British society as affluent.

Hugh Pemberton argues ‘the second world war brought a marked upswing in economic growth’1 and to some extent he is right. Consumer levels of the 1950s and 1960s certainly contributed to Britain becoming a more affluent society. The majority of the english society could now enjoy a consumerism lifestyle which included modern conveniences for the household as well as the widespread appeal of the motorcar and motorcycle. Consumption and leisure patterns can be described as undergoing under ‘revolutionary period’ as previous unthinkable luxuries such as holidays or cars became more attainable in the early post-war era. Robert Taylor states ‘motor-car ownership more than doubled during the 1950s.’2 Peter Clarke supports the expansion of the motor cars when he states ‘that 1959 saw a record jump of 200,000 in motor-cycle registrations, giving a 1 and 3/4 million total which did not decline until the late 1960s.3 The historian, Peter Morrell adds to the argument that Britain earned the epithet of affluent society, when he argues that it the new opportunities for people to have several jobs in their life, paid holidays and structured working hours that influenced the consumption and leisure patterns to earn the early post war period the description of the affluent society.4

With the widespread appeal of America that infiltrated British society during and particularly after the second world war, it was associated with ‘the home of monopoly capitalism and modern consumerism.’5 Consumerism and leisure patterns can be seen as directly influencing the post war period as being affluent. The blurring of class lines accompanied the expansion of consumerism in Britain. Lower classes could now enjoy the consumer lifestyle as after WWII, semi skilled and...

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