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Before1950s, the American society concentrated on the production ofmaterial goods since majority of the society preferred to consumethese goods. During this time, there was a lot of emphasis on theproduction and consumption of goods such as televisions and otherluxury products, which satisfied the material needs of the Americanpopulation. The acquisition of such goods earned one a high socialstatus in the American society, and a lot of esteem and prestige wasassociated with people who owned consumer goods.  Numerouschanges in production, as well as consumptionpatter1ns in theAmerican society were witnessed after the end of World War 2. Itwas during the 1950s that changes occurred in consumer production.During the cold war, there were significant alterations in themeaning of consumption, and spending by consumers was no longerrelated to the satisfaction of material needs.1
Howand why Americans came to participate in mass consumption
Therise of mass consumption in the American society was the sub-urbangrowth. Growth in urban areas was accelerated migration of Americancitizens from rural to urban centers.1With the rise in the population of people residing in urban areas,the government has to engage in development activities that wouldgive rise to products that can be consumed in mass proportions. Someof the products included improvement of urban infrastructure in orderto serve the large population of Americans moving to towns. Thefederal government also introduced policies and programs thatstimulated growth of the urban centers. For example, there was theestablishment of federal income tax, which led to deductions ininterests paid by house owners, as well as tax benefits that exemptedmarried people who had children from some taxes.
Subsidizationof the automobile industry can also be regarded as another factorthat contributed to mass consumption in the United States. During the1950s, Americans saw the need to have good roads that could be usedin the transportation of supplies, as well as troops in case therewas the emergence of a war. Many highways were built in order to easetransport within the cities and make movement of people from 2oneplace to another possible. Mass consumption in the United States wasalso triggered by the rise of Civil Rights Movement, which became acommon phenomenon during the 1960s. With this movement, mostAmericans had to subscribe to the ideals and beliefs that shaped themovement. Since a large number of the youths involved in the movementexpressed dissatisfaction with the lack of change, mass consumptionbecame a reality.2
Peoplejoined hands with the ultimate goal of ensuring that the Americansociety was changed, not only for the benefit of the blacks who weresegregated, but also for the benefit of all American masses who wereaffected by racism in one way or another. Therefore, the desire tochange the American society and achieve racial equality was a majorcontributor of mass consumption. 2Afterthe political challenges that faced the United States during the1960s ended, the lives of Americans were changed considerably, andpersonal preoccupations became commonplace. Consequently, personalstatus was replaced by mass consumption, and people started engagingin activities such as jogging, embracing the culture of the East, aswell as taking foods that could be regarded as healthy. Thissignified the transition from the preoccupation with material goodsthat dominated the lives of Americans in the past.
Therise of mass consumption in the United States was also accelerated bythe massive production of automobiles and 3televisions,especially during the 1950s. With the end of the war, the lives ofAmericans improved significantly, and this meant that most citizenscould afford to buy luxury goods. This explains why the sales of carsand televisions increased in addition, this period saw the Americanpopulation spend their money to purchase modern appliances since theurban population was in high demand of the items that seemed to beluxurious. Citizens from all income brackets within the United Statescould afford to buy televisions. With more than five milliontelevisions purchased each year, massive consumption in the Americansociety was enhanced.
Theability of advertisers to reach a large population of Americancitizens was also another reason why mass consumption became areality in the United States. Through televisions and forms of mediasuch as print media, it became possible for advertising agencies toreach many consumers within the United States.3Since many products were advertised, consumer awareness increasedgreatly, and this contributed to mass consumption of the goods.In the 1950s and 1960s, the rate of fertility inthe United States increased significantly, and this meant that mostAmerican families expanded. With the expansion of the families, massconsumption also increased.
Therise of the consumer society benefitted the United States citizens innumerous ways. First, this society ensured that Americans had accessto a wide variety of consumer goods. With mass production, there weremany goods produced in various parts of the country, and thisbenefitted most American citizens. The consumer society also ensuredthat American citizens could access goods from their neighborhood.With mass production, goods were manufactured in almost every part ofthe4country and this improved market accessibility to American citizens.The consumer society also provided an opportunity for Americancitizens to sell their surplus products. There was a wide market thatspan throughout the United States and this implied that people coulddispose goods they no longer needed.4
Duringthe 1950s and 1960s, some groups were opposed to mass consumptionsince they argued that it contributed to the production oflow-quality products. The groups argued that the advent of massconsumption contributed to the exploitation of consumers bymanufacturers since counterfeit goods were on the rise.5In the 1970s, mass consumption was associated with the risk ofcausing environmental harm. Since goods were being producedin large quantities, it meant that some actions such as disposal ofwastes in the environment and depletion of natural resources wereinevitable. Such actions affected the environment in negative ways.
Withthe end of the great depression, which took a toll on the Americaneconomy in the 1920s and 1930s, and the end of the war period,mass consumption became a reality in the American economy during the1950s. The growth of 5urbanand suburban centers was a major contributing factor to the growth ofmass production in the United States. Although the consumer societywas beneficial in allowing the American population to access avariety of goods, it was also disadvantageous. This is because itcontributed to massive environmental degradation and the productionof poor quality products.6
Andrews,Richard N. L. Managingthe Environment, Managing Ourselves: A History of AmericanEnvironmental Policy.New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.
Fiege,Mark. Therepublic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States.Londonand Seattle: University of Washington, 2012.
Horowitz,Daniel. Theanxieties of affluence: critiques of American consumer culture,1939-1979.Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2004.
Lasch,Christopher. TheCulture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of DiminishingExpectations. NewYork: W. W Norton & Company, Inc, 1979.
Schröter,Harm G. Americanizationof the European Economy: A Compact Survey of American EconomicInfluence in Europe Since the 1880s.Dordrecht: Springer, 2005.
1 Lecture Notes 1950s.
2 Lasch, Christopher. The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. New York: W. W Norton & Company, Inc, 1979.
3 Schröter, Harm G. Americanization of the European Economy: A Compact Survey of American Economic Influence in Europe Since the 1880s. Dordrecht: Springer, 2005.
4 Andrews, Richard N. L. Managing the Environment, Managing Ourselves: A History of American Environmental Policy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.
5 Fiege, Mark. The republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States. London and Seattle: University of Washington, 2012.
56 Horowitz, Daniel. The anxieties of affluence: critiques of American consumer culture, 1939-1979. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2004.