2. The historical and cultural background
The following chapter provides theoretical background concerning the Post War Britain. It gives us some information about the political and cultural state of the country at that time. I started with a brief explanation of its international relations and economic situation. Then I described the effects of Americanisation and consumerism on British culture. Afterwards, I focused on the sixties, with education, sexual revolution and young generation being the key elements of the subsection.
2.1. The post-war influence of American culture
Every end foreshadows a new beginning. No sooner had the Second World War finished, than the post-war era started to change the countenance of the British nation. Such was the affluence of the post-war period, that it created a relative contentment in both political and social circles. However, after the re-lection of Conservatives Great Britain faced considerable challenges. (Davies and Sinfield 2000, 104)The paucity of competing with other countries became a source of anxiety and raised questions about its economic future. At the beginning of the sixties it was revealed that the export industry was in a poor condition. Coupled with difficulties concerning inflation, it contributed to an international opinion that Great Britain was a country characterised by a slow development. (Donnelly, 2005, 49-50)
Many writers made attempts to identify the whys and wherefores of this stagnation and apathy. As it was described by Anthony Sampson: “A loss of dynamic and purpose, and general bewilderment, are felt by many people, both at the top and the bottom in Britain today” (Ward 2001, 9) Expressing their discontent, writers blamed the ruling government and dominant elites for indifference. But politics and economy were not the only concerns. At the heart of British problems laid an Americanisation of its culture. (Donnelly 2005, 49). The majority of artists claimed to be inspired by popular American celebrities, still, some people firmly distanced themselves from this tendency. On one hand, such fascinations with American-style allowed the middle-class to tear away from the capitalist system and forget about the hardship of everyday life. On the other, Americanisation reflected negative aspects of consumerism, simultaneously exposing the weaknesses of mass media. Intellectuals had no doubt that the minds of American followers were filled with pseudo-culture. The erroneous perception of widely understood popular culture led to mindless cultivation of American style, people blindly imitated overseas trends. (Davies and Sinfield 2000, 108-109). Raymond Williams, Welsh critic, clearly concerned about the current condition of British culture, expressed in harsh words his opinion involving the “the worst cultural products of our time”. (Donnelly 2005, 51). According to Williams, it required great mental effort to find anything truly popular in these products. From his point of view, present culture was ‘synthetic’ and strange to everyone. (Donelly 2005, 51) Moreover, he pointed out that it was not conducive to intellectual development and art. The academic critic indicated that at the time, British culture was characterized not only by ignorance but also by a lack of strong emotions, like hatred or frustration. Naming them a “bad work”, he emphasized the American origin of these attitudes. (Donnelly 2005, 50-52) Surely, Williams diagnosis, along with the criticism of decline in cultural performance, gained attention of many. It should come as no surprise that there was a strong need for some alternative form of culture. Something that would be able to combine the true spirit of art and innovation. Intelligentsia of the time favoured unconventional approach towards cultural purification. They were strongly convinced that in order for any changes to be introduced effectively, it was necessary to act radically. The idea was to cream...
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