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*The 1950s: Comfort, Consumerism & Conformity*
- First of all, the 1950s were (for most) an era of
unprecedented prosperity and expansion. More
specifically: The Postwar Economic Boom: Increasing output
& increasing demand – it really was that simple.
Economist Galbraith called it the “affluent
society” – productivity increased, people wanted
more stuff, and they used consumer credit to keep
buying, which caused profits (and paychecks) to
go up, spurring more consumerism, and so on.
Per capita real income (adjusted for inflation)
jumped up, as did standard of living (for most). The Baby Boom: The baby boom was actually
both a cause and effect of the new prosperity, as
the new population generated new needs for
services, esp. in the three industries that
expanded most – construction, cars, and defense
(well maybe not that). Housing & Highway Boom: The GI mortgages and
Federal Housing Administration insurance led to
an explosion in home building and buying –
prefabricated suburbia. Tons of new highways
were built, which also speed up the process of
suburbanization. 235 Military Spending: The other big reason for the
economic boom was military spending, which also
helped advance the electronics industry. Consolidation & Conglomerate Mergers: Due to
the new technologies, industry ownership became
increasingly concentrated as only the big
companies had the $ to buy the new stuff.
Conglomerate mergers (when unrelated industries
join together to stabilize markets) became
increasingly common. Even agriculture became
dominated by big, mechanized farm companies –
no more family farms, fewer tenant farmers. Labor Merger: Finally the AFL and CIO joined
back up again, but union membership still didn’t
increase all that much, probably b/c most workers
were doing quite well. Environmental Costs – We screwed up the
environment by dumping waste everywhere and
spraying DDT (Rachel Carson, Silent Spring). We
also wasted a lot of stuff. Sound familiar?
- As for 1950s culture, here are some of the main
themes: Conformity: The rat-race, status seeking suburbia,
materialism…basically the same as suburbia now
only people had st...
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This note was uploaded on 04/02/2014 for the course APUSH AP United taught by Professor Orban during the Fall '10 term at Harrison High School, Harrison.
- Fall '10