American Society of the 1950s: Rebellion Without a Cause?



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Masarykova univerzita

Filozofická fakulta

Brno
Katedra anglistiky a amerikanistiky

Magisterská diplomová práce

2006 Lenka Dulová

Faculty of Arts

Department of American and British Studies

Brno


American Society of the 1950s:

Rebellion Without a Cause?
Diploma thesis

Lenka Dulová


Supervisor: PhDr. Tomáš Pospíšil, Dr.
Brno 2006

I declare that I have worked on this diploma thesis indepently, using only primary and secondary sources listed in the works cited section.


…………………………………..

I owe thanks to PhDr. Tomáš Pospíšil, Dr. for his support, critical hints, and advice, as well as his suggestions and recomending some source books for the purpose of this diploma thesis.



Table of contents:

  1. Introduction: Thesis statement and outline…………………………………. 6

  2. A brief summary of the 1950s enviroment…………………………………. 8

  3. The dawning of the 1940s (postwar situation), conformity versus conflict

    1. The Lonely Crowd…………………………………………………….....13

  4. Conventional values

    1. Typical family of the 1950s…………………………………………….. 22

    2. Teenagers………………………………………………………………...30

  5. The struggle for identity

    1. Female discontent………………………………………………………..43

    2. Male discontent…………………………………………………………..51

  6. Counter culture

    1. The Beat Generation……………………………………………………..60

    2. Rock and Roll……………………………………………………………70

    3. Rebel Painters of the 1950s……………………………………………...77

  7. Conclusion

    1. How did the 1950s affected American society………………………….90

    2. The 1950s as the precursor of the1960s…………………………………92

Bibliography………………………………………………………………….94

0. Introduction: Thesis statement and outline

In the broad sense, the thesis deals with the atmosphere of the 1950s in American society. I do not want to scrutinize political situation of the 1950s since it is not the aim of my work. I would like to focus especially on lives of white middle class Americans in that time (since they represented the most important and visible part of society in the time) and their opposers. I would like to take notion especially on youth culture and subculture since they are well known and often pictured in films and literature. My intention is to explore rebellion of young people and discontent of many Americans in the time. The thesis is predominantly based on David Riesman´s The Lonely Crowd and his view on American society. My intention is to prove (and disprove) his thoughts.

The fifties are a significant era of American history. There is a common notion that the 1950s were happy days. The 1950s are concider to be a period of foreign and domestic stalemate. The years after the World War II were years of stability and prosperity for most of American society. Nevertheless, these were also times shaped by fear about nuclear war and communism. The American goverment became dangerously powerful in the fifties. American society was still very conservative in the time. My goal is to depict the anxiety deriving from these facts.

Nevertheless, the fifties cannot be taken into account separately from the previous years. This thesis does not deal only with the strictly separate decade (from 1950 to 1960), it deals also with the post-war years (since World War II was a crucial event for the American history).

I would like to look into this significant era of American history and find the answers on this questions:


  • Was there really conformity (and social stability) in that time?

  • Was there really an increase of consumerism?

  • Why were young people rebelling against the traditional values?

  • How was the family life (and traditional family values) in the fifties?

  • Why was it so important for the young people to fit in with some group?

  • Did youth really differed so much from their parents. If did, why?

  • Why was youth culture of the fifties so significant?

  • Why did so many people feel discontent about the state of American society in the fifties?

  • How did the time influenced literature and fine art?

  • What was the role of so called counter culture?

  • How did the 1950s influenced the struggle for freedom in the 1960s?

Note: The information used in this thesis come mostly from secondary sources: internet sites (most of them not cited, I was just inspired by different sources), essays, rock and roll songs, historical books and novels dealing with the theme of the thesis.



1. A Brief Summary of the 1950s enviroment

1.1 The dawning of the 1940s (postwar situation), conformity versus conflict

The fifties are often concider to be a period of time when men were men, and women were women. The fifties are said to be a time when everyone knew who they were. The 1950s are concider to be a period of foreign and domestic stalemate. These were the days before hippies, riots in the streets, and Vietnam. “The fifties are often esteemed as a state of mind than an actual span of years”1. A lot of nostalgic impressions of that time are rooted in myth.

The years after the World War II were really years of stability and prosperity for the most of the American society. The United States were almost untached by WWII. President Harry Truman said in 1945 that: “We must build a new world, a far better world - one in which the eternal dignity of man is respected”2. The United States seemed to be on the treshold of a great prosperity. The productive system had been flourishing during the war, and it continued to flourished as well after the war had ended. The United States easily switched from wartime production to peacetime production. Europe was hungry for American goods. The historians remember the 1950s as a period of boom and technological progress. The postwar economic growth was an extremely prosperous for America. The tremendous expansion influenced the conditions of American life. The USA enjoyed the post-war prosperity. The United States was determined to open up the world´s market to capitalist trade and to shape the world according to the principles laid down by the Atlantic charter3: “The economists no longer spoke of national wealth or income, but they used a more precise measure, Gross National Product, the total output of goods and services” (The American People 1244). The number of jobs and incomes also grew. The war also stimulated industrial development. New branches of manufacturing were created in new areas. Labor-saving appliences became an usual item. Since car traffic rose, highway development was supported by goverment. In the 1950s automobiles increased in size (and decorative features such as tail fins were added). Large automobile companies enjoyed success. An automobile became an icon during the fifties. By 1950 over 40 million cars were registred.

Self-service food supermarkets expanded rapidly during the fifties. Mass distribution lowered prices and Americans had more money to spend.

After the WWII there was a huge change in the global political scene. Straight after the World War II, the USA went into the Cold War. USA and USSR did not fight on ground during this war. Nevertheless, the Cold War and the spread of communism in Eastern Europe, China, and Korea in the late 1940s and early 1950s, prompted the United States to increase dramatically its defense spending. There were need of armed forces, that is why the power of military-industrial complex grew. Both countries developed nuclear weapons. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted into the “atomic age”. In the 1950s, the United States developed a large civil defense program. The Atomic and Hydrogen bombs were created and military started to perform nuclear tests.

The scare of communism resulted into McCarthism5, an intense anti-communist movement. During this period many people were marked as Soviet spies or communist symphatizers. This inquiries were later known as “witch hunts”. In 1951 the trial against the Rosenbergs began. In spite of the fact that many Americans believed in their innocence, the Rosenbergs were executed for spying for the USSR in 1953.

In 1952, Arthur Miller´s play The Crucible was released on Broadway. Although the play is set in Salem in 1692, it is attacking the political situation of the fifties (there is a relevence to McCarthy hearings). The Crucible is often described as one of the first profoundest plays of the post-war world.

The Centre Intelligence Agency (founded in 1946 by The National Security Act) is an intelligence agency of the United States goverment. In the Fifties, there was a rapid expansion of the agency. In that times, the CIA organised the Pacific organization, they approved Project Bluebird (CIA mind control program, later renamed to Project Artichoke), and Columbia Broadcasting system began cooperating with CIA.

Relligion was an important part of American society in the fifties. It was believed to distinquish Western democracy from atheist communists. The National Council of Churches was found in 1950. The phrase “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust“ on bills in that time.

In 1950 the Korean War6 began. The Korean War was a by-product of the Cold War. In the sixties, USA were supposed to be prepared for the war in Vietnam because of all the experience from the Korean War (but it was not so).

In 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act was signed. It removed racial and ethnic barriers to becoming a US citizen.

On October 4, 1957, the successful launch of the Russian Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, stunned the American nation. American became worried about the Soviet accomplishments and the development of space program became soon a national priority.

The growth of consumerism and the economy marked the society in the fifties. Many Americans moved up to the middle class and their wages were rising every year. The growth of suburbs was a result of post-war prosperity. Employment brought many people to the metropolies. The small town continued to lose ground.

However, prosperity did not extend to everyone. The 1950s were not just an era of widespread affluance. Many Americans continued to live in poverty and fear. It is said that about 50% of black Americans lived in poverty in the fifties. A large part of the population continued to suffer from social, politic, and economic discrimination: “Discrimination and poverty often prevented Negroes, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans from acquiring the training to take the new jobs” (The American People 427). These unskilled minorities were unemployed (they often formed a pool of migratory agricultural hands). James S. Patterson in the book America´s Struggle Against the Poverty claims that at the end of the 1950s, Americans debated if poverty was a culture or an economic condition. Structuralists has always stressed that poverty was an economic condition and they used the term “under-class people” for the poor ones while anthropologists tended to use terms like “lower-class culture” or “subculture” for them. The anthropologists believed that poverty was more than lack of income. They distinquished people of different ethnic groups who faced to economic misfortune from the people who did not want to be the part of the middle class.

Poverty prevailed mainly in the rural South. African Americans still suffered of discrimination, their life seemed to be unchanged in the fifties. The unemployment level of blacks doubled that of whites. But there was a slight change in that time. In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education, dismantled the legal basis for racial segregation in schools and other public facilities. Two years later Atherine Chuanita Lucy was the first African American who enrolled in the university (at Alabama at Tuscaloosa). Rosa Parks started a boycotte of Montgomery buses in 1955. Sounds that had its roots into black music started to be popular among white teenagers. African Americans began demanding their basic civil rights during this decade. The independence of the new African nations in the fifties helped African Americans to be proud on themselves: “Nigerians sat as equals with whites, coloured Americans could do the same” (The American People 435). Millions of white people learned how to overcome deeply rooted prejudice about their race. Only the minority of Southeners resisted to conquer prejudice.

The biggest consumer revolution was the growth of the television industry. Television began to leave its imprints on America in the early 1950s. The television was believed to brought people together. The growing impact of television and the rise of youth culture led many social critics to charge that America was becoming homogenized, conformist society. However, numerous aspects of the society led to social apathy. Rock and roll brought about a revolution in music which simultaneously reflected the changes going on in the lives of younger generation. 

Mass advertising changed lives of many Americans. There was a huge consumer demand after the war. Most markets found a new consumer base for new products. Thanks to television, there was a change in the structure of advertising agencies.

In 1946, Benjamin Spock, an American pediatrician, published The Baby and Child Care. The book significantly influenced childcare of the 1950s. Spock was the first pediatrician to be concerned with children needs.

Rudolf Flesh published the book Why Johny Can´t Read in 1955. He supposed that American educators failed in teaching the American youth to read. Flesh claimed that the teaching technique used in American schools was all wrong. He mantained that the culprit in the illiteracy disgrace was the “look-and-say” teaching method7.

In 1953 Russell Kirk published The Conservative Mind. It is the study of political ideas. He examined and defended the roots of American values and Anglo-American conservative thoughts in the book. Kirk believes that social conservatism is preservation of the antient moral traditions. Conservatives respect wisdom of their ancestors, the pressume that civilized society needs orders and classes. The only true equality is moral equality. A conservative man must a control upon his will. Property and freedom are inseparably connected, change and reform are not identical. Kirk also contrasted core beliefs of conservatism wit those of conservative´s opponents on the Left8 .

In 1958, The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith, was published. It was broadly inffluential economic analysis that dealed with the state of American society. The famous phrase “conventional wisdom” was introduced here by Galbraith. The author claim that the conventional wisdom of American economy is based on the 19th century European economic theory. Thus it no longer suit to the phenomenon of mass affluence. According to Galbraith, the economic theory has always been based on societies characterized by poverty. He believes that high rates production is overemphasized and it should not be concidered as the messure of economic prosperity. He agrees with greater goverment expenditure on education and health care. The book became the best-seller and awoke American public opinion9.

The term ‘power elite’ was coined in 1956 by Charles Wright Mills. The term stand for a small group of people who control a disproporcionate amount of wealth. This small group of people is priviliged to control the world and make decision on global consequences. Mills says in his book The Power Elite, that political, military and economic elite and their relations. Mills emphasized the importance of the flow of disscusion. He believes that there has always been the public opinion in American society because people who are not in the goverment are able to express their political opinions freely. Power in the United States had become nationalized10.



1.2 The Lonely Crowd

In 1950, a study of American character, The Lonely Crowd, was published by David Riesman (with Nathan Glazer and Reuel Denney). The book researches social character (how it differs in various places, times and societies). Riesman wanted to find out how the increasing power of goverment organizations influenced national character. The book rose questions about conformity and individuality in the post-war America.

Released in 1950, the study was not a great success at first. Riesman was dissapointed by the attitude readers took. Nevertheless, in 1954, demand for the book rose. Though the work was concider to be too difficult for general public as it used terms unknown for these people, The Lonely Crowd became the first sociological study that became a best-seller. Sociologists of the 1950s were quite sceptic about the impact the book would have on common people. Some of them even rejected it. However, The Lonely Crowd influenced the people of the 1950s and it is still a great study of American society. The book was written in the time when Americans needed to examine the society of their own and they were searching for answers on how their country was formed. It was the time when great changes in American society appeared; the era of expansion called for a new definition of characters. Riesman tried to classify humanity in a completely new way. He raised questions about the post-war conformity and prosperity. The high birt-rate called for conformity and it formed the social character in a different way. Riesman tried to examine how the social character of the Americans in the late forties differed from the one of the 19th century.

In this chapter, I would like to summarize Riesman´s thoughts from the study since they are crucial for understanding my thesis. Riesman´s examination of American society of the late forties had foretold the way American society was living in the fifties.


Riesman identifies three basic personality types: the tradition-directed, the inner-directed, and the other-directed in the study. The other-directed ones are crucial for the functioning of modern organization because they are flexible and cosmopolitan. They are no more influenced only by the nucleous family. According to him, the conformity forms the inner-directed society. The inner-directed man is formed in the early childhood by his parents and he takes their point of view. Nevertheless, later he is able to be influenced by other authorities. However, the influence of his parents dominates. The tradition-directed people are conservative and obey ancient rules. They are formed by the small group of individuals he knows personally and he is in everyday touch with. They are acting to satisfy the demands of this small group of people. The tradition-directed individuals can hardly cope with quicly changing society. Riesman claims that after World War II, the other-directed people started to dominate American society.

Riesman also deals with consumerism in the late forties, that is targeted on teenagers. According to Riesman, younger and younger children are becoming a part of society, where money play an important role. Children from middle class families are given money already at the age of four. He says that children are also opinion leaders and they have to be taken into account. The author believes that childhood is an important period in forming ones social character. Children cannot be separated from the society they live in, they are greatly influenced by it through the medium of their parents and educators. The changing characters of their parents are influencing their children. Riesman claims that the children of the late forties are influenced not only by the parents but by society and culture as a whole. Tradition-directed parents teach their children to copy their style of life. These children do not have much choice. The inner-directed societies teach their children that life is a fight. These children can simply chose the style of living while other-directed children are instructed how to manipulate with others. The affluent society does not need people to work harded, they work just to do something. Consumerism is an important aspect of such a society. People of other-directed society want differ from the rest. They long for individuality.

Riesman uses the term “marginal differentiation”. He claims that this term is an aspect of anxiety. People are no more visual rivals, they tend to hide their competition. Parents are not sure how to deal with their children and that is why they are seeking for help elsewhere. Parents no more instruct their children how to place themselves in society; school, massmedia, and their peers help them to find a place within society. Nevertheless, the older hierarchy is not completely destroyed. A typical other-directed child grows up in a nucleous family, in an enclosed neighbourhood or in a suburb. However, this enviroment is interrupted by the tension between parents, by the absence of the grandparents or father (who is forced to commute to the work). Thanks to the affluence, children no more starve. They do not have to be worry about their lives anymore. So they are able to enjoy the period of childhood. On the other hand, parents concentrate much more on their children. The number of children per family and infant death-rate is lower. Thus the pressure on children is much greater than it used to be. Parents are anxious about what their children think about them. The mass-media show children the common norm of behaviour of parents, and that this why they can easily compare it with the one of their parents. Riesman believes that the other-directed child knows much more about life than its parents. However, other-directed child can also be affected by the anxiety of its parents. Other-directed parents lost their self-confidence; they are afraid to use corporal punishments. They use a new method of upbringing – by talking to the children. Children of other-directed parents quarrel with them mostly about things that do not deals with work. American children do not have to toil, they have enough free time to spend. That is why they discuss common things with parents. Parents in other-directed society are no more the only educators. The role of grandparents in this type of society is quite unimportant.

An inner-directed child is educated mainly by its teacher. A teacher´s task is to show children how to behave properly. Since there is a plenty of school in the United States and the education is free to anyone, the teacher has to teach children middle-class values. However, the teacher is often no authority and children tend to oppose it. The inner-directed school system is impersonal. School is often boring and it does not show children how to cooperate with others. It tells children that it is very important to be successful but it does not tell anything how be a part of society. Such a school does not deal with the individuality or problems children have to face to. Children who are not able to satisfy the demands of the inner-directed school are deprived. On contrary, other-directed schools are (according to Riesman) progressive. They take child´s individuality into account. Other-directed children begin to attend school in a much younger age. Other-directed teachers are better trained to understand the needs of children. These teachers teach children how to cooperate with others and the important role of leadership. Teacher is more friendly, he no more shows his dominancy. He takes on a role of so called “oppinion leader”. Pupils have to have a feeling that they are a part of a certain group. They are not afraid to show to others what they know. However, Riesman claims that other-directed schools are also not able to support children´s imagination.

Inner-directed families believe that a child is a young, unexperienced adult. Inner-directed children are not supposed to cooperate much with other children. These children live only with their families. They have a limited choice to find friends. They starve to be a part of the world of adults and try to satisfy the demands of this world. Since it is not possible to satisfy these demands, a child begins to rebel. An inner-directed child is able to find only a few friends. Such a child often feels lonely because it cannot share his troubles and hobbies with others.

An other-directed child is no more influenced only by its parents. The child is able to be a part of a group consisting of the children of his age and class. Riesman sees parents as a judge, and peers as a jury. The parents have, as a judge in American juridical system, a limited power, while the jury has a great power. An other-directed child is formed especially by its peers. Every group has its own slang and taste. These groups are greatly influenced by the consumerism. The members of the groups are forced to adapt themselves to swiftly changing fashion, they have to fit in into the group. There is no more privacy. Children and teenagers are suppossed to share their inner lives with others. The peers judges them. Opinion leaders influence opinion followers. Inner-directed society did not tend to consumerism while other-directed one does. Othe-directed people live in an affluent society but they still dare for more. A child of the late forties is teach how to be a member of consumer society from the early childhood. Advertisments play an important role in that time. The best product is the product that is praised by the peers. A child begins to be the most influental consumer and it is its task to persuade the parents to buy certain products. The speech of young people itself is a part of consumer society. They choose words that can characterize the group they belong to. Literature is also targeted no more on individuals, but on groups. Children books and magazines are written to be disscussed. A child is no more concerned with the inner life and characters of the heroes. Everything he needs is a simple story. A child does not need to identify with the character of the story. The unreal heroes (like Superman) are more popular than ever. Nevertheless, the unreal characters still play an important role in forming children. They manipulate a child to be a part of conformist society.

Inner-directed society have been focused on work. Inner-directed man had to separate work from entertainment. He had not much free time. Inner-directed era created an “acquisitive consumer” who needs to show up his wealth. Inner-directed man was focused on the work while the other-directed one on people. For other-directed individual, work is fun. Other-directed workers should have an education consisting of all the branches possible. Other-directed man does not want to archieve the highest position. He is satisfied to be a part of a certain group. He does not feel the pressure of the inner-directed one to decide about his future job hastily.

An acquisitive consumerism has been forgotten. Other-directed man is showing up his good taste, not the amount of his wealth. Sexuality is no more repressed in other-directed society. Sexuality is an escape from idleness. It is also a meassure of popularity in other-directed society.

The literature of the forties (other-directed literature) is not directed on social and material rise. Happiness of an individual is now more important. (Even if Riesman claims that this shift can be nothing but simple adaptation to circumstances.) According to Riesman, mass culture does not represent a conspiracy of the dominator. It is not targeted on any individual group. Media try to warn against loneliness, they highlite the need of being a part of some group.

Rieman says that people cannot be easily classified into precisely inner-directed and other-directed ones. These terms often intermingle. For example, a man can be generally other-directed but politically inner-directed. According to him, many Americans of the late 1940s do not take politics into account (as the inner-directed once did). Riesman claims that political indiference used to be a mark of previous generations. Inner-directed people did not have any influence on politics. They believed that politics is the matter of wealthy and powerful people. On contrary, the most of other-directed citizens should be active on political field. They can be passive only if they are satisfied with economical and political situation. A great ammount of indifferent other-directed Americans confirms the widespread affluence. On the other hand, it can also means that political situation is not transparent to anyone. Younger generation do not feel responsibility for politics. They passively accept goverment´s decicions. Riesman believes that more than half of the entire American population is apathic.

The 19th century America was the country of moralists. The moralists could not much intefere with politics because of their own anxieties. There was only a small group of moralists that dealed with politics.

In other-directed society, an “inside-dopester” appeared. It can be a man who tries to understand politics. He wants to be informed about political situation. He is cosmopolitan rather than provincial. As he knows that he cannot change the politics, he at least tries to manipulate itself by copying the politicians. Most inside-dopesters are not politicaly active. Since they have second-hand information, their understanding is limited. Politics serves him as a medium for gaining conformity.

Mass media are the most important medium between other-directed politicians and common people. They educate people and teach them tolerancy. The cult of sincerity is an important factor of other-directed society. Common people prefer amateurs to professionals. They tolerate mistakes as they are the signs of realness. Riesman says that many critics of mass media believe that television and press support the common apathy. People influenced by mass media are not a part of the real world anymore. According to them, mass media destroy reality. Nevertheless, Riesman does not agree with these critics. He claims that mass media by contraries preserve the inner-directed attitude to the politics. Even gutter press deals with politics. Since other-directed mass media give priority to politics, people then try to find an example how to live in press and television. These people believes that other people are seriously interested in politics as it is shown in mass media. A man reading a newspapers or watching a television then finds out that he is the only one who is not a hummer. Riesman believes that mass media dissamble a real state of political indifference. He says that people of mass media are typical other-directed citizens, no matter how much they pretend to be moralits.

Riesman suggests that in the late 1940s, artistic impression is no more important. Mass media are much more concerned about the subject matter. The role of mass media in the United States is to strengthen and propagate the older moral code. Riesman complains about the way the media provide information to common people. According to him, an ordinary man cannot understand much of these information.

Riesman believes that in the last fifty years, the power in the United States was interspersed into so called “veto groups”. These veto groups seem to be protective organizations rather than directive ones. According to Riesman, there are still remains of the old inner-directed political system in the United States at the end of the forties.

Riesman claims that an other-directed man does not long for power any more. He does not want to be a president. The only thing he longs for is truth. Such a man longs for information, appreciation and adjustment. The highest peak, the other-directed man can reach, is autonomy.

People who are not tradition-directed and who do not fit into the society are called “anomique”. The people who are able to fit in, but are free enough to decide for non-conformist style of living, are called “autonomous”. However, Riesman again believes that no one is precisely only one type. A man is a mixture of the different cathegories (one cathegory always prevails). An individual, growing up in a tradition-directed family, can easily fit into an inner-directed society later.

An autonomous individual wants to break himself away from the average of the society. An autonomy is a divergence from the common model of behaviour. Riesman claims that antagonists of the autonomy in American democratic society are not totalitarien any more but the anonymous authorithy of the modern democracy is unfavourable for the autonomous people. (John Stuart Mill also dealed with the autonomous individuals. He saw autonomy as a sign of revolt against the conformists.) The autonomous people of the inner-directed society open the way for the other-directed ones. Riesman says that at the beginning of the 1950s, there are members of a bohemian society that are not entirely free. They just follow the oppinions of the group. Any non-conformist have to take up the role prescribed to him by the society. He has to act to satisfy the expectation of the society.

An autonomous man is confused about his sexuality. He is not sure if he should act according to the old rules, or according to “Kinsey Reports”. Women of the end of the forties do not know what to do; Should they pretend chastity or be more open and initiative?

Riesman believes that in the United States people are forced to be sociable by the means of false personalization. Other-directed people have to be sociable. Some critics of the life in the end of the 1940s claim that people have too much freedom. They criticize that people travel a lot, and the authorities would rather “locked” people on one place. The plan of authorities is to built up enclosed communities! They want a rooted and separated (blacks from whites) communities.

In spite of all the critics, Riesman says that Americans are truly a free nation. Teenagers are able to free themselves from their parents by the means of a car. The widespread affluence enable them to travel a lot and to find as many friends as they want. However, Riesman admits that the “ideal” society is slightly damaged by different politic, economic, and cultural restrictions. People are still restricted by conventions.

Emancipation of American women is confusing men. Once they were “protected” from women by etiquette and conventions and women used to be sexualy repressed. At the end of the 1940s, women calls for their rights11.

Riesman notices that the United States goverment has a different approach to different nationalities. Mexicans and Portoricans are forced to be Americanized as quickly as it is possible, while African Americans, Italiens, Jewish, and Slavics can chose the tempo of their assimilation. They are supported to enrich Americans by their national heritage.

American society is influenced by the Puritan past. Thus, the means of entertainment has always been restricted in the United States. Riesman believes that other-directed society has to overcome these restrictions. People are, step by step, tought how to participate actively in entertainment.

Riesman in the study depictured the most important characteristics of American life at the end of the 1940s. For instance, rising American´s obsession with consumerism and conventions, the role of mass media, separated communities and the propaganda of older moral codes. He also explored American other-directed families, their children and American schooling system. Riesman´s study significantly predicted the life in the fifties and many of his thoughts truly explained American character.

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