Please Discuss the Social, Political, and Economic Conditions of the 1950’s; Which Lead to the Social Upheaval of the 1960’s.

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Micah Briggs
HSTV 440
Essay 1

Please discuss the social, political, and economic conditions of the 1950’s; which lead to the social upheaval of the 1960’s.

In the 1950s the United States was marked by economic growth and an increase in manufacturing and home construction due to the post WWII economic boom. The Cold War also began during this time frame and brought with it many conflicts that helped create the proliferation of a politically conservative environment throughout the country. The fear of communism resulted in many Congressional hearings and prevalence of an anti communist sentiment. During this time period society was characterized by a spirit of conformity and conservatism. The film, “The Beat Generation: An American Dream,” described this era as “…socially conservative and highly materialistic in nature.” (The Beat Generation: An American Dream. Dir. Janet Forman. Perf. Steve Allen, David Amram, Amiri Baraka. 1987). Major events that occurred during the era include the Korean War, the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, and an anti communist sentiment resulting in the Red Scare and McCarthyism. Although the 1950s is categorized as a time of compliance and conformity in United States history, it was also a period that triggered social unrest resulting in the social upheaval of the 1960s (Francev, Kimberly, Ph.D. "Lectures 1-9." Lecture. 11 Feb. 2013. 01 Jan. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013). This paper will outline all of the social, political, and economic conditions of the 1950s that helped create the climate of social unrest in the 1960s. During the 1950s the United States was marked by an increase of affluence in American society; which resulted in elevated levels of consumption and an increase in the population (The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test: Tom Wolfe: 9780312427597: Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2013. Pgs 18-31). However, in the midst of this economic prosperity a significant gap began to form between the rich and poor. To combat this growing concern President Eisenhower increased government spending to stimulate further economic growth (Francev, Kimberly, Ph.D “Lecture 1: Welcome to Levittown Post War America” Lecture. 11 Feb. 2013. Eisenhower used defense spending to promote industrial growth and fund scientific and technological advances. In 1957 the first nuclear power plant opened, resulting in the expansion of the chemical and electronic industries (Francev, Kimberly, Ph.D. “Lecture 2: McCarthyism and the domestic consequences of the Cold War.” Lecture. 11 Feb. 2013. The technological advances allowed industrial tasks that were once done by humans, to be done by electrical devices. These technological advances resulted in the increased use of natural resources. Fossil fuel consumption rose to support the increased use of electricity, and low gas prices expanded the automobile industry. However, not all of the advances in technology resulted in positive outcomes (Web. 11 Feb 2013, Henriksen, Margot A. Dr. Strangelove’s America: Society and Culture in the Atomic Age. Berkeley: University of California, 1997. Print, Pgs 36-80). Big business prospered due to the increase of production benefits of automation, until “…less than 0.5% of American corporations owned more than half of the nation’s corporate wealth.” These massive corporations stifled their competition and formed conglomerates that linked companies to different industries. Agriculture was also affected by big business. Technological advancements cut the amount of work that was needed to grow crops, resulting in many small farm owners moving into the cities as rich farming industries “…consolidated family farms, fertilized them with new chemicals, and harvested crops with new machinery.” Technological advancements and economic prosperity also diminished the need for unions due to increased wages and few labor complaints. The decrease of blue collar workers also...
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