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Unformatted text preview: 14/05/2007 Revision Notes – American Literature 2 – The 1920s and the 1950s 1920s What were the main features of the new society of the 1920s? “the chief business of the American people is business” [Coolidge, next president after Harding] Dramatic economic growth; cooperation between business and government 1920s - Decade of prosperity. o New industries (aviation, electronics) flourished; old ones adapted moving assembly line (increased productivity) o Growth of automobile industry -> stimulated other sectors of economy (steel, oil... tourism, growth of suburbs) o New consumer goods marketed – bought on new instalment buying plans (Telephone, vacuum cleaner, washing machine... ‘Coca-Cola’) o More spent on leisure – vacation, movies, sporting events o Entertainment – radios, phonographs -> celebrity culture created “New society” – standard of living became “sacred”. Acceptance of debt to purchase consumer goods (unlike 19 th Century notion of self-denial) Future trouble o Fruits of increased production unequally distributed o Handful of firms dominated numerous sectors of economy 40% of population in poverty – couldn’t be consumers Majority of families had no savings Chronic unemployment due to Deindustrialisation No. of farms/farmers declined due to mechanisation/less demand (needed more during WW1) Hollywood spread images of “American way of life” across globe. Seemed to have discovered permanent prosperity (unlike Britain and Germany) Public relations depts. established in firms -> to counteract public’s distrust for business and to justify corporate practices Stock market attracting more investors – stock prices rising Business used rhetoric of Americanisation and “industrial freedom” as weapon against labour unions Some corporations provided employees higher wages/more workplace safety/sports programs o Called it “welfare capitalism” -> more socially conscious leadership Employers embraced American Plan -> workplace free of government regulation and of unions o Said prosperity = business having freedom of action o Blacklisted union organisers to prevent strikes o Organised labour lost over 2 million members o Any strikes over the decade were weak; defeated by business, politicians, etc Goals of WW1 abandoned – USA becoming Conservative rapidly 14/05/2007 Feminists too struggled to adapt – a few joined Sot Party as they agreed government should protect vulnerable workers Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) proposed – to eliminate legal distinctions “on account of sex”. Would mean no law limited women’s hours of labour o Opposed by almost every female organisation o ERA campaign failed Feminist demand for personal freedom -> now meant individual autonomy/personal freedom Women’s self-conscious pursuit of personal pleasure o Public smoking and drinking o Short skirts, birth-control, etc HOWEVER, only until they married. Then expected to seek freedom within confines of HOWEVER, only until they married....
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