Student Protests in the US - 1. StudentProtestsintheUS The...

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1. Student Protests in the US The early 1960s saw the United States in an Augustan mood. The post-war boom led to a general rise in prosperity as evidenced by the tremendous increase in home ownership and the acquisition of all sorts of electrical home conveniences. John Kenneth Gailbraith and Walter Heller preached the New Economics to the “Affluent Society,” making Americans confident almost to a point of complacency about the perfectibility of American society. Politically, no greater symbol of the nation’s imperial mood could be found than in the newly elected leader, John F. Kennedy. Young yet rational, stylish yet cautious, Kennedy behaved the way the leader of a great nation was expected to. His handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis was reassuring and inspiring—he showed that he was both anti-Communist and unafraid to call the Russians’ bluff. It had been a long time since Americans hung pictures of their president over the mantel. If time has tarnished his image, Kennedy was almost a saint to the American people and, at least, extremely popular in the rest of the world’s eyes. More than a symbol of the nation’s optimistic mood, Kennedy epitomized an American ideology which began to emerge in the mid-50s, reached a climax in 1960, and continued until about 1965. It was a liberal ideology and it was built on six basic assumptions: 1. American capitalism works; it creates abundance; it has potential for solving social problems. 2. The key to this potential is growth, thus eliminating the predicted conflict over resources. 3. American society is getting more equal; class is being eliminated; workers are becoming members of the middle class. 4. Social problems can be solved with abundant capital and resources. 5. The most urgent threat to this system comes from communism, which must be contained. 6. Since democratic capitalism works here, it is the duty of the U.S. to bring it to the rest of the world. Ironically, the two basic assumptions of this liberal ideology were wrong: American capitalism did not solve all our problems at home; nor was communism our most urgent danger. This was to be realized soon enough, but not before tearing apart the very fabric of American society. The years of consensus (1955-1965), when there was virtually no difference between conservative and liberal thinking, presented 20th-century America with the most serious challenge to the authority of American institutions. The most conspicuous challenge came from two groups: upper-middle-class youth (especially college students) and the urban poor. The two groups did not always work together, but a set of very special circumstances led them along parallel paths that occasionally intersected.
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Dissatisfied with the world they inherited and following a pattern of dissent from their parents’ generation, the youth of the 1960s formed a “counter-culture” which rejected many of the fundamental values of American society. A much larger generation than previous ones (economics was not all that boomed after World War II), this generation
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This note was uploaded on 02/23/2010 for the course LITERATURA ? taught by Professor Naddi? during the Spring '09 term at Università degli Studi di Firenze.

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Student Protests in the US - 1. StudentProtestsintheUS The...

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