06. January 2015 · Comments Off on Consumerism In The 1950’s · Categories: Uncategorized

Stearns defines consumerism as an economic concept which asserts that an increasing level of spending and consumption is advantageous to the people of a particular nation (2006). This economic concept took place in the US in the 1950’s. Immediately after the World War II, the American soldiers came back to their nation that was relatively different from the one that they left some years back. The production that took place during the wartime had significantly helped pull the American economy out of misery. Since the late 1940’s onwards, the youthful adults experienced an outstanding increase in their expenditures. This was unlike the adults who grew up during the period of depressions and wars. Increased consumerism took place because the United States was far ahead the other countries in the world, economically, after the World War II.

This was the long awaited time by Americans to change their patterns of spending completely. They had grown up in deprived economic conditions due to poverty during the Great Depression as well as rationing of products during the World War II. In the 1930s, so many people could not afford much past the basic needs as the American economy was in a mess. During this period of war, much of the country’s productive output was spent in the acquisition of armaments. Every product in the American economy, ranging from nylon to tires to sugar, was rationed. When the consumer goods turned out to be accessible again during the consumerism, people had the desire to spend more. Though Americans were only 6 percent of the world’s population, they consumed more than a third of the entire world’s products and services (Booker, 2002).


Importance of the Consumerism In The 1950’s

During this era of consumerism, jobs became plentiful, and wages were much higher as compared to that of other nations. Many young couples married and began to have children at unparalleled rates. New federal programs allowed scores of young couples to buy their lands and homes. Consumer spending after the World War II no longer signified satisfaction of material desire. In the 1950’s, the consumers were praised as patriotic citizens, leading to the eventual achievement of the American lifestyle. Consumers were committed to purchasing more and better goods since economic revival after close to two decades of war and depression relied on a vibrant mass spending economy (Stearns, 2006).

Stearns believes that the American people and the federal government saw consumerism as a means of de-emphasizing class disparities while emphasizing on traditional gender responsibilities (2006). Employees too could attain the upward mobility that they had previously craved, by being in possession of goods and services that gave a definition of the American lifestyle within their economic reach.

Impact of the Consumerism

The 1950s economy experienced some key changes, which sequentially changed the lifestyle of the American populace. The economy suddenly boomed again after almost 20 years. Economy was not the only sector that experienced the boom. With the coming back of the American soldiers from the Second World War, the country experienced a baby’s boom. More citizens meant more homes; more homes meant more job opportunities for contractors as well as companies. These companies were to supply construction materials to the contractors. In a nutshell, consumerism had a great impact that was felt on the American economy. The invention of credit cards upheld and supported the already budding consumerist society. As well, other new marketing strategies and forms promoted consumerism. Business malls and shopping centers were erected, and the Americans day-to-day life was fully transformed. The role of women in the society and family life also experienced significant changes. Women were allowed to join the workforce, and they could contribute to the income of their families. The American cities also underwent a substantial transformation. They were modified, often causing instability among the minority groups. Later these apparent remodeled cities became zones of crises. Nearly all areas of American living were impacted by the thriving economy (Booker, 2002).

Besides the modification of cities, suburbs as well grew. Business centers also increased in these areas from 8 at the end of the Second World War to Approximately 4000 in 1960 (Booker, 2002). New highways were also created, hence fastening access to the shops and the suburbs. The more consumer spending increased, the more Americans enjoyed a better living standard that was unthinkable to the other nations and parts of the world. The rest of the world was left in poverty, and racial segregation increased. This was because countries like America needed more people who could work on their newly acquired farms. Their standards of living and better lifestyle could not allow them to work on their farms anymore. The American land owners had the option of buying and importing slaves to work on their farms. Hence, it can be clearly seen that American Consumerism of the 1950s greatly affected America and other nations in the world, both positively and negatively.