ConsumerCulture and Family Life in the Postwar Era
ConsumerCulture and Family Life in the Postwar Era
Afterthe World War II, Americans enjoyed a huge economic boost. As theyengaged in cold war, the military budget spending went up, and themilitary innovation was in a high gear. Correspondingly, this createdjob opportunities in the defense community. The big corporations suchas General Dynamics, General Electric, McDonnell, and Boeingbenefited from the military contracts. In the meantime, the UnitedStates dominated the global economy, and the American’smiddle-class enjoyed their new standards of living. The postwarfamily life rose since most middle-class families also enjoyedamenities that were once reserved for the rich people. Generally,there was a dramatic change of family life after World War II. Peoplepurchased more thing forcing people to work including house heads.Corresponding, purchasing of more goods created more leisure time forfamily.
Theconsumer culture in the postwar era shaped family life and the womenrelationship with work. Two forces, middle-class domestic ideal andjob market, forced women to move out and search for employment(Dizardand Gadlin, 2014).Before 1950, an ideal woman was a healthy, beautiful woman who wasonly concerned with her husband, children, and taking care of herhome. Despite their education, women found that jobs in business andprofessional careers were men dominated. However, after the war,women started to seek or white-collar jobs. At the same time, youngpeople were marrying at an unprecedented rate and having children. Inaddition, the Bill of Right also allowed young them to buy homes.
After1950, Americans started living a good life. It was a decade ofeconomic boom. Prior postwar, consumer values dominated the Americanculture. By then, a “good life” was only defined in terms of theeconomy, which was more income and leisure (Featherstone,2007).Americans started spending money on goods and services that werescarce during World War II. Consumer spending did not just satisfyindulgent materials, but other luxury goods as well. As LizabethCohen explains, a good purchaser contributes to a newer and betterlife (Dizardet. al., 2014).They started to enjoy flashy cars and televisions. In fact, Americanconsumers were regarded as patriotic citizens who ultimatelycontributed the success of family life. Likewise, the federalgovernment also started to spend. There was high demand for Americangoods and services especially due to high defense spending andforeign aid. Old industries such as automobile grew alongside newindustries such as plastics, computers, and electronics.Correspondingly, job opportunities in these sectors increased hence,economic growth.
Tocontinue in prosperity, Americans started to spend more money onnecessities and luxuries. They concentrated more on items around homeand family life. Some of the most desired items included the vacuumcleaner, televisions, cars, refrigerators, washing machines, toaster,and any other machine that would modernize their lives. It was alsoeasy to obtain credit cards than before hence, obtaining theseluxuries was also easy. However, according to Eisenmann(2006),debts rose from $5.7 million to $56.1 billion from 1945 to 1960. Dueto the high demand of luxuries, shopping malls, discount stores, andfast-food restaurants become common.
Automobilealso symbolized the postwar era in family life. Since most Americanswere living in the suburbs, it was important for them to commute tothe shopping centers and to work. Therefore, a family car became anecessity rather than a luxury. This led to the birth of car culturein America. Owning a car made one to travel more, which led to morebusiness opportunities. For instance, many stores opened along thehighways that encouraged drivers to stop and stop. By 1950, more than60% households in American owned a car (Eisenmann,2006).Beside high ownership of the automobile, Americans also startedpurchasing televisions. This marked a huge economic, social, andtechnological change of the postwar era. High usage of televisionproved capitalism superiority over Soviet Communism. Due to highaccess of information, equality was achieved across all social andclasses groups. According to Spigel(2013),there were only nine television stations and seven thousand workingtelevision in 1945. By 1950, more than three million homes owned atelevision set. By 1953, there were more than one-hundred televisionstations, and the number of homes with a television set had grown totwenty million. Today, ninety-nine percent of Americans home have atleast one television set, while more than sixty-five homes have twoor more. Further, television commercials became common, and a new wayto advertise consumer products direct the Americans.
Indeed,most American’s life changed during the postwar era. Americansoldiers would witness that when they returned to their country fouryears after the war, it was a totally a different country. The warproduction pulled off America’s economy from “depression”raising the power to spend. Purchase of automobiles and televisionmarked a substantial financial investment in family life in thepostwar era. Moreover, job opportunities became plentiful, wages andsalaries increased, and Americans were more eager to spend. Althoughthere are many negative consequences of war, there are also someadvantages.
Dizard,J. E., & Gadlin, H. (2014). Family Life and the Marketplace:Diversity and Change in the American Family1. HistoricalSocial Psychology (Psychology Revivals),281.
Eisenmann,L. (2006). Highereducation for women in postwar America, 1945-1965.Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Featherstone,M. (2007). Consumerculture and postmodernism.Sage.
Spigel,L. (2013). Makeroom for TV: Television and the family ideal in postwar America.University of Chicago Press.