This chapter covers American society at midcentury from the premier performance of Elvis Presley in 1954 to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. This era enjoyed the prosperity of post-World War II through the growth of suburban life and the emergence of youth culture. Americans reflected a fierce desire for consumer goods and “the good life.” Deeply held popular belief in a continuously expanding economy and a steady increase in the standard of living helped shape social life and politics throughout the postwar era. Overall, the nation’s public culture presented a powerful consensus based on the idea that the American dream was available to all who worked for it.
After reading this chapter you should be able to:
Discuss how postwar economic prosperity changed the lives of ordinary Americans.
Explain what role federal programs played in expanding economic opportunities.
Analyze the origins of postwar youth culture and discuss how teenage life was different from previous eras.
Discuss how mass culture became more central to everyday American life in the two decades following World War II.
Summarize how cold war politics and assumptions shaped American foreign policy.
Compare the domestic and international policies associated with John F. Kennedy and the New Frontier.