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The Affluent Society
The Affluent Society (1958), John Kenneth Galbraith’s most broadly
influential book, stands out among works of economic analysis for its
accessible writing style, which makes complex economic concepts and
arguments understandable to the popular reader. Galbraith’s phrase
‘‘conventional wisdom,’’ a key concept introduced in The Affluent
Society, has entered common parlance so pervasively that it is now
used to describe a variety of concepts not necessarily related to
economic theory.

Galbraith asserts that the conventional wisdom of economic thinking
in the United States is based in nineteenth-century European economic
theory and is no longer suited to the unprecedented phenomenon of
mass affluence achieved by American society in the twentieth century.
He criticizes the overemphasis on high rates of production as a
measure of economic prosperity, suggesting that other factors may be
of greater importance. He further asserts that economic theory must
take into account the importance of advertising in artificially creating
high rates of consumption to support high rates of production.

Galbraith’s central concerns in reassessing the American economy include: the nature of American affluence;
the relationship between production, consumption, and advertising; the abiding issue of poverty and economic
inequality; and changing factors in such economic concerns as employment, inflation, and consumer debt. He
ultimately advocates a greater emphasis on sales tax over property tax; greater government expenditure on such
public services as education and health care; and a national goal of expanding the ‘‘new class’’ of citizens able
to pursue work they find inherently enjoyable.




Analyze the graph

                               Car Ownership after the War                            About how many cars were owned by Americans
                                                                                      in 1945?
   Millions of Cars

                                                                                      How long did it take that number to nearly
                           1   2   3    4   5    6   7    8     9 10 11 12 13 14 15   What are three reasons for such a dramatic
                                                         Year                         increase in car ownership?

                        45         47       49       51         53     55    57

What is your home address?

Log on to and figure our the mileage and time from home to the destination.
Place                      Distance from home        Time by car                  Check: Walkable?

For how many destinations did you drive on the highway/freeway?
1950s Car Culture

  Federal Aid Highway Act 1956 -

Entertainment                               1. FADS & FASHION - these were a few of our favorite
                                          Perhaps one of the things which most characterizes the 1950's
                                          was the strong element of conservatism and anticommunist
                                          feeling which ran throughout much of society. One of the
best                       indicators of the conservative frame of mind was the addition of the phrase
                               "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. Religion was seen as an
                             indicator of anti-communism. Fifties clothing was conservative. Men
wore gray            flannel suits and women wore dresses with pinched in waists and high heels.
French fashion designers such as Dior, Chanel and Givenchy were popular and copied in America.
Families worked together, played together and vacationed together at family themed entertainment
areas like national parks and the new Disneyland. Gender roles were strongly held, girls played with
Barbie dolls and Dale Evans gear, boys with Roy Rogers and Davy Crockett paraphernalia. Drive-
in movies became popular for families and teens. Cars were seen as an indicator of prosperity and
cool-ness. Highways were built to take people quickly from one place to another, by-passing small towns and helping to
create central marketing areas or shopping malls.

Fashion successes were Bill Blass and his blue jeans, poodle skirts made of felt, pony tails for girls, and flat tops and crew
cuts for guys. Saddle shoes and blue suede loafers were popular. Teenagers were defined as a separate generation and
were represented by James Dean who wore blue jeans in Rebel Without a Cause and created a fashion and attitude
sensation. Activities we liked were flying saucer watching , and watching and dancing to Dick Clark's American
Bandstand . Fad hits with kids were toys like hula hoops and Hopalong Cassidy guns and western gear, Davy Crockett
coon skin hats


Perhaps the most far reaching change in communications worldwide was the advancement in the area
of television broadcasting. During the 1950s, television became the dominant mass media as people
brought television into their homes in greater numbers of hours per week than ever before. In the
early fifties, the number of hours young people watched TV steadily increased, a trend which has not changed greatly
since that time. What was portrayed on television became accepted as normal. The ideal family, the ideal schools and
neighborhoods, the world, were all seen in a way which had only partial basis in reality. People began to accept what was
heard and seen on television because they were "eye witnesses" to events as never before. Programs such as You Are
There brought historical events into the living rooms of many Americans. The affect on print news media and
entertainment media was felt in lower attendance at movies and greater reliance on TV news sources for information.
And then, in 1954, black and white broadcasts became color broadcasts. Shows called "sitcoms " like The
Honeymooners , Lassie, Father Knows Best, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet , and I Love Lucy featured popular
characters whose lives thousands of viewers watched and copied. Families enjoyed variety shows like Disneyland and
The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday evenings. Daytime programs like Guiding Light, a "soap opera" were popular and
helped advertisers sell many products to the homemakers of America. News broadcasting changed from newsmen simply
reading the news to shows which included videotaped pictures of events which had occurred anywhere in the world, and
then to more and more live broadcasts of events happening at the time of viewing. This was made possible in 1951 with
the development of coaxial cable and microwave relays coast to coast. When Edward R. Murrow began offering his
weekly radio program (called "Hear It Now") on TV as "See It Now," the world of news broadcasting was irrevocably
changed (eyewitness recounts the change)


When the 1950s are mentioned, the first type of music to come to most people's minds is rock 'n roll.
Developed from a blend of Southern blues and gospel music with an added strong back beat, this type
of music was popular with teenagers who were trying to break out of the mainstream, conservative,
American middle class mold. Popular artists such as Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis
were promoted on radio by just as popular disc-jockeys (DJ's) like Alan Freed and the Big Bopper.
The deaths of Lubbock singer Buddy Holly , Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper is still lamented by
fans. The influence of these early rockers has been felt in popular music worldwide.
Music in the fifties was more than just rock 'n roll. Crooners like Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Dinah
Shore were all popular. Many of these singers were the idols of the rockers who developed the new sounds. Many of
their songs are still being played on radios, home stereos and CD players all over the world.


People in the Fifties loved sports. More leisure time and greater general prosperity led to
greater participation in athletic activities for the average person and added large numbers of
fans to all types of sports. Unlike many areas of society in this decade, athletes were a diverse
group. Popularity was not based on social status, but on the ability of the individual. All
American sports such as baseball and football gave opportunities for the rise of stars like
Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Henry (Hank) Aaron, Juan Marichal, Jim
Brown, and Frank Gifford. Great women athletes played in the All-American Girls
Professional Baseball League.

As television became more popular and available, other sports found growing numbers of fans. College football was
widely followed. Professional golf became very popular with stars like Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer helping to create
the idea that to succeed in business, men needed to play golf. Women like Babe Zaharias-Didrikson created the Ladies
Professional Golf Association in 1950, so women were joining men on golf courses all over America. People watched
the Olympics 1952 and 1956 , and in part due to the Cold War, rivalry between countries became very fierce. Track and
field athletes like Bob Mathias (decathlon) and Bobby Morrow (relay) were favorites.Sports like tennis, basketball and
boxing were also popular in the fifties. Althea Gibson was the first African-American to play in the U. S. Lawn Tennis
Nationals at Forest Hills, NY. Major names in basketball were Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Bob Cousy, Oscar
Robertson and Dolph Schayes. Another favorite, boxing, gave opportunities to great athletes, Sugar Ray Robinson and
Rocky Marciano.


The Disneyland amusement park, in Anaheim, California, opened its gates on July 17, 1955 with 18
attractions, including the Jungle Cruise, Tomorrowland Autopia, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and the Mark
Twain. The televised opening was hosted by Ronald Reagan, Art Linkletter, and Bob Cummings. The
11,000 invitation only tickets to opening day were so easily duplicated that the first day attendance shot
to 28,154 with an ABC television audience of 90 million. Official general admission cost $1. Cost of
attractions ranged from $.10 to $.35.


With increased leisure time people began considering the beach and ocean front as a favorite getaway. East coast beaches
like those on Long Island, Cape Mae and Atlantic City in New Jersey, Ocean City Maryland, Virginia Beach, Myrtle
Beach, Daytona Beach, and Miami Beach to name a few. More people than ever before spent summer days in the ocean
and on the beach and the beach tourist industry took off. Small amusement parks popped up, hotels rose from the sands,
and seafood became a staple in the vacation diet. Traditionally, summer started with the Memorial Day holiday and ended
on Labor Day weekend. It still does today.


by Erika Cox

The word Teenager was created in the 1950s due to the tremendous population of those in this age category and because
teenagers started gaining more independence and freedoms. Teenagers were able to buy more things like food, clothes and
music because of an increase in spending money.

Teenagers were also becoming more independent in the type of music they preferred to listen to, no more listening to what
their parents liked, teens flocked to the new music of the decade, which was rock and roll.

Growing up as a teenager prior to World War II, teenagers were expected to take life seriously. Males were expected to
join the military or go out and get a job in order to help bring in money for their family or to take care of their future

Females were taught how to take care of the household and prepare themselves to be a dutiful wife and take care of
children. Marriage and preparing for a family, more than education or a career, was seen as a definite in the lives of
teenagers. Also, teens had very little economic freedom, independence, and input into decision making prior to WWII.

However, in the 1950s, expectations changed for the teenager. The economy started booming and families experienced a
great deal of economic power, freedom and independence, including teenagers.

New medians were created like television and AM radio that attracted teenagers. Also they were able to attend high
school dances, create clothing trends, dance fads, and hairstyles to name a few.

Things were starting to change. In the 1950s, teenagers where more inclined and encouraged to attend college, find a skill,
and seek a successful career. Their parents had more than likely gone through the depression and a number of wars, and
now wanted something more for their children.

This resulted in teenagers receiving spending money and having more time to socialize with other teenagers. Of course,
this newly found independence would often result in conflict between the parents and the child.

The media played on these emotions and often portrayed teenagers as juvenile delinquents. Peers easily influence
teenagers, often at that stage in life what peers think and do becomes more important than what parents think and say.

Perhaps, some would say looking at society in general that the first indication or act of teenage rebellion began in the

Before the 1950s, teenagers listened to the music of their parents, but when rock and roll came on the scene teens
swarmed to it. Even though teens were able to purchase rock and roll records because they were receiving extra spending
money, their parents were opposed to rock and roll music, they despised it, and thought of it as corrupting their children.

This sometimes caused friction, it seemed as if teenagers were becoming more rebellious, defensive, and at times,
disrespectful, and that listening to rock and roll was the root cause of all this rebellion.

However, this belief was often exaggerated because parents didn’t understand the newfound independence and freedom
that they never experienced. Yet, rock and roll was something new and parents thought it was shocking and terrible. They
felt if their children were listening to this dreadful music that the end must be right around the corner.

Although, this wasn’t the case in every household it was in a large number of them. Because parents had never
experienced this they thought their children were doomed never realizing it was just a phase and it would be over with
once the teen reached adulthood.

Later on this clash became known as the generation gap. Nevertheless, with the help of adults, radio, rock shows,
concerts, and TV shows like American Bandstand opened doors for teens in the 1950s to experience things teenagers of
the past never experienced. Despite all of the uproar, teenagers in the 1950s played a huge part in the rise of rock and roll

The Television                                                  Entertainment

How many hours per day do you watch?
What is your favorite TV Show?

What happens in a typical show?

                                                 1950s Sitcom
Sitcom: (def’n):
Title of Show:
Title of Episode:
About the Program:
What is your first impression of the show?

Half way through, what is your impression now?

Did you enjoy the show? Why or why not?

           Use this table to connect events from the show to our previous discussions on 1950s society
Event in the Show                                         Connection to 1950s Society

Compare and contrast TV now and then.
   1950s TV show

                                                                                              2010 TV show



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