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View Full Version : Why are the 1950s so idealized?


Cuāuhtemōc
November 5th, 2010, 02:15 AM
Sorry for contributing so little but I want to know from people who either grew up during the post-war economic boom (1945-1973) or know about the era in US history. Please?

Sol Zagato
November 5th, 2010, 02:36 AM
Sorry for contributing so little but I want to know from people who either grew up during the post-war economic boom (1945-1973) or know about the era in US history. Please?


I dunno... because they weren't the 1930s? Incredible rise in prosperity.

Silver Shamrock
November 5th, 2010, 02:50 AM
Rose-coloured lenses, perhaps? The nostalgia filter accounts for a whole lot, after all.

KyleB
November 5th, 2010, 02:53 AM
They were a wonderful time because we were deadlocked in a cold war with the Soviets, scared out of our wits by Sputnik, spending our free time digging fallout shelters in our backyards, dying by the thousands in Korea, and running up a national debt.

Emperor Norton I
November 5th, 2010, 02:53 AM
On one hand, it was the age of the boom, relative calm, economic explosion, ease for the middle class, the rise of the teenager, etc.

On the other, people are morons and think "Leave it to Beaver" is a documentary.

Westbrook 49
November 5th, 2010, 02:57 AM
They were a wonderful time because we were deadlocked in a cold war with the Soviets, scared out of our wits by Sputnik, spending our free time digging fallout shelters in our backyards, dying by the thousands in Korea, and running up a national debt.

Don't forget Joe McCarthy!

Silver Shamrock
November 5th, 2010, 02:57 AM
I remember reading a comic - buggered if I can recall the name, but it was part of an anthology. Anyways, it was drawn in this idyllic style, with bright, colourful splash pages, retro-future writing ...

... and it was about a group of teenagers murdering a cop so they could get into a street gang. Racism, violence, revenge ... yeah, the writer of that comic didn't have an idealised view of the past.

theReturner
November 5th, 2010, 02:57 AM
Probably because people had just been through the Great Depression and World War Two. Compared too the past two decades, it was probably much better time to be alive in America.

Of course, things weren't perfect, for alot of people, namely African-Americans.

Typo
November 5th, 2010, 03:00 AM
Unrealistic Nostalgia, couple with real statistically proven better income distribution for the middle class as a product of the war and the New Deal. http://www.slate.com/id/2266174/

Cuāuhtemōc
November 5th, 2010, 03:06 AM
Taxes were pretty high I heard too.

Typo
November 5th, 2010, 03:08 AM
Were they? But the thing is high taxes arn't necessarily a bad thing

Cuāuhtemōc
November 5th, 2010, 03:09 AM
Were they? But the thing is high taxes arn't necessarily a bad thing

Never said they were. I merely asked if taxes were higher then than now - I think corporate taxes were pretty high

Typo
November 5th, 2010, 03:11 AM
Ah I see.

I actually don't know :)

Thande
November 5th, 2010, 03:12 AM
A time of plenty, improving standards of living, postwar optimism and cultural flowering in the USA, enviously watched by the rest of the world living in bombed-out austerity.

LordInsane
November 5th, 2010, 03:18 AM
A time of plenty, improving standards of living, postwar optimism and cultural flowering in the USA, enviously watched by the rest of the world living in bombed-out austerity.
Most of the world, anyhow. They, er, were not the only country to get a time of plenty, with improving standards of living, optimism and indeed some cultural flowering.

Peabody-Martini
November 5th, 2010, 03:20 AM
You glorify the past when the future dries up- U2, God Part 2

gridlocked
November 5th, 2010, 03:55 AM
I am speaking about the USA.

It really was a golden age especially if you were middle class/lower middle class. People in the 50s were poor compared to us, but things got better every year.

Television, automobiles, private homes and a lot of other things we take for granted were new and becoming common place. A guy could graduate high school find a job and support a wife and family and retire with a pension. With detergent, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, Tupperware etc, being a housewife was no longer being a family drudge, but a desirable lifestyle that most women aspired too.

The country was young and extremely optimistic, much more so than even the 1990s. The problems with growth, youth and loosening strict and old fashion standards are simply more edifying than dealing with the problems of decline and limits.

Objectively in terms of wealth and technology, you are far better starting your life in the crowded and Bankrupt California of today as opposed to starting your life in the California of the 1950s where everything is wide open. However, psychologically I bet it doesn't feel that way and the Californians who have experienced both eras are pretty clear which era they prefer.

Because of the war and the shut down in immigration, the 1950s were a much more regimented and homogeneous society than today. The exception are blacks, of course, but in the 1950s their life and prosperity was getting better too. This is the era of mass migration to the north.

Now, I do not prefer male life organized like you were on a big sports team and female life centered on home, children, bridge, and book clubs, but many people would be very happy to live this way.

In short it was a golden age, but like any other golden age, say USA 1995-2008, it is not ideal for everybody or every personality type.

John Fredrick Parker
November 5th, 2010, 04:08 AM
I think we need to understand part of what, arguably, makes the 1950's so great is the difference between what the country was like when it started vs what it was like at the end. A lot of the cliche bad things about the 50's -- McCarthyism, Cold War paranoia, conformist culture, etc -- are a lot better at describing the early parts, while a lot of really great things about the decade -- middle class prosperity, relative calm, start of civil rights, the permissive society -- became bigger as the decade progressed.

Of course, things weren't perfect, for alot of people, namely African-Americans.

Well, things aren't perfect now either, but that's not the standard; the standard is the level of progress, and especially compared to the previous decades, the 1950's were huge.

The Doctor
November 5th, 2010, 04:08 AM
Never said they were. I merely asked if taxes were higher then than now - I think corporate taxes were pretty high

I had this great class on U.S. history spring quarter last year. The prof, had things very balanced. We read a Conservative book, a middle ground, and a liberal book. One thing that was brought up was the 50's and the changing scene. Uniformity was the norm, the ideal, and the way the world needed to look to boost competition with the USSR. Reagan was an actor paying 99% if his earning to the Feds in taxes over a certain amount of his earning (one reason he lowered taxes for the rich when he was President in the 80's) There are many more things I could mention, but most of the other details have left me. :/ Working hard on my current history class on African slave trading.....20 page histiographic paper to work on for next week. Wish me LUCK! XD :o

Emperor Norton I
November 5th, 2010, 04:12 AM
Yeah, taxes on the wealthy were rather high. They were about 90 percent of income by the time JFK got into office because of the New Dealers, and everyone (New Dealers too) generally thought they had gotten way outta hand so JFK lowered them to somewhere around 70% to try to get them to pay a fair share but not be unfairly burdened. Then Reagan lowered them down greatly, and the Conservatives have been trying to lower them even further for a while (I think it's either 20% now or the conservatives want it lowered to 20%).

Arachnid
November 5th, 2010, 04:15 AM
The big reason was the it really was comparatively good compared to the decades on either side.

1930's Great Depression, nuff said.
1940's World War 2, nuff said.
1950's Booming economy, optimism, social stability.
1960's Vietnam, Civil Rights, Culture War.

The '50's had problems, Korea, Little Rock etc. but comparatively comes off very well.

jlckansas
November 5th, 2010, 04:53 AM
And people who were effected by the negatives in the 50's were really smaller in numbers than in the 30', 40's and 60's. Most people were getting their piece of the american dream and getting higher up on the socio economic ladder.

admkenshin
November 5th, 2010, 06:29 AM
As many before has said, I think it can be summed up as: Things WERE getting better. In the 50's, there was genuine hope for the future. Just look at science fiction from that era and compare it to now: It is generally utopic, or at least has a positive look on the future, while modern sci-fi is very dystopic.

Laqueesha
November 5th, 2010, 06:47 AM
A similar point is the lack of the Cold War in the 1990s, leaving it somewhat idealized compared to the 1980s.

Uriel
November 5th, 2010, 07:18 AM
Jerry Springer (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001761/): And where are you calling from sir, 1952?
Al Bundy: I wish. That was a great year for America. Ike was in the White House, women were in the kitchen, and guys like you were in the closet.
Jerry Springer (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001761/): And, you forgot to mention where you were. I suspect in a zoo someplace throwing your feces at a passing tourist.
Al Bundy: Once again, I wish.

Riain
November 5th, 2010, 08:25 AM
I read that in the 50s the American middle class was proprtionally the largest is had ever been before or since. As such the richest 10% (or whatever) only controlled something like 50% (again whatever) of the wealth, unlike today where after almost 30 years of being well looked after the richest 10% (or so) control 80% (or so) and the middle class has shrunk both in absolute size, absolute wealth share and relative wealth compared to the rich.

So it's little wonder that people fondly remember the 50s, your average joe with a bit more than usual talent or drive could become middle class and live very well in the 50s. These days he's probably screwed under with tax, regulation and other disincentives.

SPQR
November 5th, 2010, 08:46 AM
Ike, post-war optimism, economic boom, new technology for the avg. Joe, The Cold War, minorities knew their place, women were allowed to stay at home.
my 0.05 USD.

Silver Shamrock
November 5th, 2010, 10:10 AM
I read that in the 50s the American middle class was proprtionally the largest is had ever been before or since. As such the richest 10% (or whatever) only controlled something like 50% (again whatever) of the wealth, unlike today where after almost 30 years of being well looked after the richest 10% (or so) control 80% (or so) and the middle class has shrunk both in absolute size, absolute wealth share and relative wealth compared to the rich.

I would love to know where this came from. Do you have a source for the info?

Cuāuhtemōc
November 5th, 2010, 11:02 AM
The big reason was the it really was comparatively good compared to the decades on either side.

1930's Great Depression, nuff said.
1940's World War 2, nuff said.
1950's Booming economy, optimism, social stability.
1960's Vietnam, Civil Rights, Culture War.

The '50's had problems, Korea, Little Rock etc. but comparatively comes off very well.

The 1960s I heard is only demonized for Vietnam, the civil rights movement (which got particularly ugly around 1986, and the beginning of the cultural war). The prosperity I heard lasted until 1972-1973 when shit hit the fan.

That and I heard that a high school graduate could immediately get a decent job in the factories.

Guys, the reason I'm asking this is mainly for a persuasive essay.

JN1
November 5th, 2010, 11:15 AM
I don't think that the '50s are quite as idealized in the UK because of post-war austerity. But I think there was a great deal of optimism around after the end of the war.

Julius Vogel
November 5th, 2010, 12:35 PM
In New Zealand's case, pretty similar to the rest

1. The Korean War and the rebuilding of Europe and parts of Asia demanded exactly what NZ was wanting to sell and at a great price. So standards of living were very high, compared to the rest of the West.

2. WW2 rationing had ended - later than it should have, but we were initially low on foreign currency and had to keep supply British demands for some time.

3. Post war construction was not focused on rebuilding but instead extending the 1930s State Housing projects (in NZ the central government is often referred to as "the State" and it historically provided most government housing, not local council government) - the "quarter acre + villa" dream. So for a lot of families, whether native born European NZers, rural Maori migrating to the city, or post war British immigrants, this would have been their first purpose built modern house and it would have been with plumbing, electricity, lots of garden space and provided by the State. That must have been amazing to people who have been at war or having lived through the Depression.

4. Guaranteed jobs - NZ kept full employment right until the late 1970s/early 1980s, despite the cost. This system only really began after the War and I can imagine that this must have been a huge deal to people who have been to war and suffered the Depression

5. Despite the decline of the British Empire and the impact this had on NZ's place in the world (very pro British and pro Empire), the rise of the US meant that it was a very benign security environment.

Cuāuhtemōc
November 5th, 2010, 01:16 PM
I don't think that the '50s are quite as idealized in the UK because of post-war austerity. But I think there was a great deal of optimism around after the end of the war.

From what I heard, unemployment was in one of its lowest levels.

SavoyTruffle
November 5th, 2010, 02:10 PM
There's also the fact that it occurred right after WWII, where every great power except the ol US of A (because the fighting just had to happen in Europe, and Little Boy and Fat Man paid a visit to Japan) is badly damaged by it. This not only left the USA in the best position overall, it also resulted in an economic boom and a feeling that America, did in fact, save the world.

Typo
November 5th, 2010, 03:10 PM
I would love to know where this came from. Do you have a source for the info?
My post in this thread had the link from slate

mrmandias
November 5th, 2010, 03:14 PM
Sorry for contributing so little but I want to know from people who either grew up during the post-war economic boom (1945-1973) or know about the era in US history. Please?

Are they? I don't think I've ever had a conversation where I mentioned something positive that happened inthe 1950s without instantly getting the racism, segregation, soulless corporate jobs, oppressed housewives litany.

Geon
November 5th, 2010, 04:02 PM
I can speak most clearly of my own experiences. It was really for me very much like "Leave it to Beaver" and "Ozzie and Harriet". It was a time of innocence. It was also a time of personal freedom if you can believe that. There was no conception of a "nanny state" that told you what was and wasn't good for you. It was a hopeful time, a time when it really seemed anything was possible. From my own study of history I would say that the only time that truly would have matched it in U.S. history was the 1920's.

Now, let's be clear, it was not a fantasy world for everyone. If you were a minority, most notably African-American it's likely you would not be in on this dream and indeed had to deal with a great deal of persecution and struggle. Likewise for many other minorities it was a difficult time.

There was fear. The idea of a nuclear war was a very real fear among the population. The Civil Defense public announcements on TV and radio would sound quaint and laughable, that is until September 11, 2001. But, at the same time, the idea of having one's fallout shelter was not a thing of fear but of fun. We didn't have one in my family, nor do I know of anyone that did. But it gave a certain mystique.

Today, we look back on the 50's with nostalgia. In some cases we look back with scorn. I can only offer my own experiences and say to me it was wondrous and I only wish it had delivered on the promises it seemed to make.

Geon

Blackfox5
November 5th, 2010, 04:09 PM
You only need to compare with America in the 1930s and 1940s which had the Depression and the sacrifice associated with war. In comparison, the 1950s was heaven. The US was undoubtedly on top of the world with the highest standard of living along with the self-confidence of having been victorious in WWII.

It's quite simple really.

modelcitizen
November 5th, 2010, 04:34 PM
I think an amount of 50s-idealizing is stylistic, iconic imagery, Elvis, jet age, bold flashy cars, etc.



As some have noted, some folks really like the 50s because they hate hippies and the "turmoil" of the 1960s, the decadence of the 1970s, freedom rock and disco, etc.

Francisco Cojuanco
November 5th, 2010, 04:50 PM
Why? Simple - America was spared the worst of the war. Add to that the, ahem, exuberance of men returning home and the equal exuberance of their girlfriends to get married and to ahem, procreate (people had way more sex than is usually portrayed in the era), and you get this sense that the worst was somewhat over (at least until MAD) and things could only keep on getting better. So perceptions of prosperity and opportunity (which was starting to seep in to other minorities, too - this is the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, and war industry had improved living standards somewhat), added to a modern sense of decline (reasonable, given we have just come out of an economic downturn), and you get an idealization when things were "simpler" - and indeed it was, but it was just as sustainable as the post-Cold-War exuberance - that is, not sustainable at all. And that's not to say about the fact that people who were kids at the time may not have known about the social problems affecting their elders (teen pregnancy, IIRC, was at its highest rate before the 80's).

grdja83
November 5th, 2010, 06:01 PM
Title should really be modified to include "in the USA", because only there it holds any truth.

Nuclear families, rise of suburbia, post war economies, patriarchal family still holding true and strong, non whites barely considered people. It was "golden time" only for rich and middle class while males.

Anyone in any country in Europe that was in WWII will tell you nothing good about '50es. Everyone was poor and struggling to rebuild.
I remember reading here recently that on a visit in '57 Khrushchev couldn't possibly believe what he was seeing in USA was true and that USA middle class could possibly be that rich. Middle class in France or UK would be able to believe it, but still would greatly envy the Americans. Germany, Poland any hard hit country was still in deep troubles.

Thande
November 5th, 2010, 06:04 PM
Another interesting thing about the 50s was that everyone, even Americans, seemed to embrace the idea of one world government and that it was right around the corner. Reading stuff written then is weirdly dissonant now, it makes EU propaganda look positively balanced by comparison.

Francisco Cojuanco
November 5th, 2010, 06:31 PM
Title should really be modified to include "in the USA", because only there it holds any truth.

Nuclear families, rise of suburbia, post war economies, patriarchal family still holding true and strong, non whites barely considered people. It was "golden time" only for rich and middle class while males.

Anyone in any country in Europe that was in WWII will tell you nothing good about '50es. Everyone was poor and struggling to rebuild.
I remember reading here recently that on a visit in '57 Khrushchev couldn't possibly believe what he was seeing in USA was true and that USA middle class could possibly be that rich. Middle class in France or UK would be able to believe it, but still would greatly envy the Americans. Germany, Poland any hard hit country was still in deep troubles.

Well, it wasn't exclusively only white males - that's a bit of an exaggeration, as is the non-whites bit, at least during the later part of the decade. I mean, sure, it wasn't to the standards of today, but things were getting better. And the Leave-it-to-Beaver image of a patriarchal family had some truth to it, but it was never the whole truth - not to mention that today's society is still patriarchal, just in different ways.

Cuāuhtemōc
November 5th, 2010, 07:48 PM
Mainly because it was popular back then to get married. It was very rare for couples to divorce.

John Fredrick Parker
November 5th, 2010, 08:12 PM
Mainly because it was popular back then to get married. It was very rare for couples to divorce.

Yeah, no fault divorce changed that (something you can blame on Ronald Reagan, incidentally :p)

EDIT: ICINC, I'm a fan of NFD...

Cuāuhtemōc
November 5th, 2010, 08:15 PM
Yeah, no fault divorce changed that (something you can blame on Ronald Reagan, incidentally :p)


I find that a good thing. I'm sure it was normal for returning GIs to marry their high school sweetheart. Not exactly smart. :rolleyes:

Riain
November 5th, 2010, 08:29 PM
I would love to know where this came from. Do you have a source for the info?

I think it was in a book called "Richistan", which was written becasue in 2007 there were a million millionaires in America. I think it was this book, but I can't find it in the library catalogue so it might have been another book, it's killing me because I want to re-read it.

Susano
November 5th, 2010, 08:29 PM
Anyone in any country in Europe that was in WWII will tell you nothing good about '50es. Everyone was poor and struggling to rebuild.
Depends. Early 50s? Yes. Mid-50s, though? Economic Miracle in Germany and its equivalents in other states, chiefly France and Italy. In a way, the 50s here are seen quite similar as in the USA - i.e., it heavily depends on which ideological side you stand.

Nebogipfel
November 5th, 2010, 08:41 PM
Depends. Early 50s? Yes. Mid-50s, though? Economic Miracle in Germany and its equivalents in other states, chiefly France and Italy. In a way, the 50s here are seen quite similar as in the USA - i.e., it heavily depends on which ideological side you stand.

Definitely. I would go even farther - the 50s in general are THE good old days at least in the western part of Germany. The same in Japan and France, btw.

Susano
November 5th, 2010, 09:23 PM
Definitely. I would go even farther - the 50s in general are THE good old days at least in the western part of Germany. The same in Japan and France, btw.

Okay, about that, Im not so sure. I think that here in Germany the view that those times were in fact socially authoritarian has become somewhat consensus, so its not all that unambigous anymore. People praise economical success and political stability of course, so that is a counterweight to the social authoritarism - resulting in my perception of oppinion of the 50s being very much divided.

Of course, personally, what with Adenauer in office I wouldnt exactly call the 50s a political success, either, but thats of course just my opinion :p

Thande
November 5th, 2010, 09:24 PM
And of course anyone who grew up around the time is going to have especially rose-tinted memories of the period if the earlier part of their childhood was the bit where you were being evacuated and/or bombed.

Francisco Cojuanco
November 6th, 2010, 12:18 AM
Yeah, no fault divorce changed that (something you can blame on Ronald Reagan, incidentally :p)

EDIT: ICINC, I'm a fan of NFD...

Well, there were ways of getting around the fault bit... it involved the hiring of a prostitute, with the husband and wife colluding (and committing perjury), but it was very possible, if you could spare a few bucks to pay for the whore.

Cuāuhtemōc
November 6th, 2010, 12:49 AM
Does anyone know the tax rates for the middle class in the United States of America during the post-war economic boom? I imagine the percentage was significantly higher than it is now.

MerryPrankster
November 6th, 2010, 01:12 AM
I find that a good thing. I'm sure it was normal for returning GIs to marry their high school sweetheart. Not exactly smart. :rolleyes:

And why is that "not exactly smart"?

Viriato
November 6th, 2010, 01:20 AM
I think the chart below sums up the U.S. nostalgia to the 50s quite nicely.

http://www.stanford.edu/class/polisci120a/immigration/Median%20Household%20Income.pdf

In the 1950s the U.S. household income was growing and would continue to grow until the mid-1960s. There are some who say that the 1950s really didn't end until Kennedy was shot.

Although the U.S. growth was impressive, Europe's recovery was nothing short of a miracle. By 1951, the western European economies had recovered to at least prewar levels of income and production. West Germany's was the most impressive with "Der Spiegel" first referring to the economic miracle or "Wirtschaftswunder" that would last until 1973. Unemployment decreased from 8% in 1950 to 1% by 1960 as the economy became a huge producer of industrial goods. All of this made West Germans more optimistic about the future. In 1949 when an opinion poll in "Das Soziale Klima" showed only 47% of the West German population thinking the future would get better. By 1953, 60% of the West Germans surveyed were optimistic about the future.

Germany wasn't alone, by the 1950s most of Europe experienced unprecedented economic growth, and would continue to do so until the oil crisis in 1973. France's impressive period of economic growth was referred to as "Les Trente Gloriueses" (The Glorious Thirty) describing the thirty-year period of economic growth from 1945-75. In Italy, the 50s were the period of "La Dolce Vita" (The Sweet Life) with a massive growth of industry in the north spurred by the production of consumer goods such as refrigerators and washing machines.
Even the poorer peripheral countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece experienced massive economic growth beginning in the 1950s that would allow them to begin to catch up with Northern Europe. However, the latter three really began to pick up steam after 1960, growing at around 7% per annum until 1973.

Below I have included the average annual GDP growth rates for the world's major capitalist countries during the 1950s.

1950-1955
West Germany 9.1%
Japan 7.1%
Italy 6.3%
France 4.4%
USA 4.2%
UK 2.9%

1955-1960
Japan 9.0%
West Germany 6.4%
Italy 5.4%
France 4.8%
USA 4.2%
UK 2.5%

As many of you will notice from the figures above Britain's growth lagged behind the rest of Europe. By 1960 the median income in West Germany had surpassed that of the UK, by 1965 France followed and by 1975 Japan was ahead as well. However, because Britain's growth rate was steady and unemployment remained low Prime Minister Harold MacMillan was able to announce that Britons had "never had it so good" by 1957.

Cuāuhtemōc
November 6th, 2010, 01:54 AM
And why is that "not exactly smart"?

Because it seems kinda idiotic (in my point of view) to immediately marry a girlfriend (from high school), get married and have babies. That's like immediately marrying my gal.

And thank you for the information Viriato.

Emperor Norton I
November 6th, 2010, 02:07 AM
Because it seems kinda idiotic (in my point of view) to immediately marry a girlfriend (from high school), get married and have babies. That's like immediately marrying my gal.
Time was finite and people weren't expecting magic and the greatest of the greatest for their lives the same way they are today. It was a different mindset. You'd probably die in a few decades, and you took what you could and enjoyed it and worked hard to get more if you wanted more. Nowadays everyone's expecting something better no matter what they have, and consequently aren't happy. And people aren't dying in their 60's and 70's with the possibility of dying in their 50's (at least at the same rates) and with good luck if they make it to their 80's; they're living far longer. So that derails the whole thing of getting married right off the bat and having kids quick; everyone has time.
Plus, you would have a good job no matter what. Blue collar: you got paid a good salary for factory work. White collar: you got paid a good salary for desk work. Either way, you had stability.

Cuāuhtemōc
November 6th, 2010, 02:40 AM
Time was finite and people weren't expecting magic and the greatest of the greatest for their lives the same way they are today. It was a different mindset. You'd probably die in a few decades, and you took what you could and enjoyed it and worked hard to get more if you wanted more. Nowadays everyone's expecting something better no matter what they have, and consequently aren't happy. And people aren't dying in their 60's and 70's with the possibility of dying in their 50's (at least at the same rates) and with good luck if they make it to their 80's; they're living far longer. So that derails the whole thing of getting married right off the bat and having kids quick; everyone has time.
Plus, you would have a good job no matter what. Blue collar: you got paid a good salary for factory work. White collar: you got paid a good salary for desk work. Either way, you had stability.

I honestly never knew that. Well the above part. :o

Don Lardo
November 6th, 2010, 02:53 AM
(big snip of excellent stuff)


It's rather heartening to successfully explain reality to the uninitiated, isn't it? :)

Emperor Norton I
November 6th, 2010, 02:55 AM
Norton's law 0:
Norton is never wrong...unless I am...and I won't admit that.

mrmandias
November 6th, 2010, 02:58 AM
I find that a good thing. I'm sure it was normal for returning GIs to marry their high school sweetheart. Not exactly smart. :rolleyes:

And since then, we've found over and over again that all these extra divorced people are usually even unhappier after the divorce than before, that couples that stick together usually turn the corner, and that the children of divorce are more miserable, poorer, and more likely to suffer psychological adjustment problems. So, yeah, yay no-fault divorce.

It's the number one argument against social experiments--you do the experiment, the results come back almost unequivocally that its a bad idea, but in the meantime its somehow became a sacrosanct institution that's almost heresy to even question.


Edit: this threadjack is getting more political chat that alt-history so I'll let it go at that

mrmandias
November 6th, 2010, 03:00 AM
Because it seems kinda idiotic (in my point of view) to immediately marry a girlfriend (from high school), get married and have babies. That's like immediately marrying my gal.

And thank you for the information Viriato.

They didn't have delayed adulthood back then.

mrmandias
November 6th, 2010, 03:02 AM
One other possibility for why the 50s get idealized--in some ways it seems like it was the last American decade when adults instead of youths were at the center of entertainment and culture. For adults that's got to make you a bit wistful despite the other flaws of the era.

Don Lardo
November 6th, 2010, 03:05 AM
They didn't have delayed adulthood back then.


Delayed adulthood? More like strenuously avoided adulthood. ;)

Emperor Norton I
November 6th, 2010, 03:09 AM
Delayed adulthood? More like strenuously avoided adulthood. ;)
And thus, "Failure to Launch" is delayed 5 decades, and Matthew McConaughey is deprived a film role, which is only good for the human race.

Bee
November 6th, 2010, 06:31 AM
People only began to deveop a fondness for the 1950s during the 1970s; I think that you have to look back to what changed in the 1960s to understand why. Drug use among kids proliferated in the 1960s -- basically unheard of in the 1950s; same for sex and swearing in films and on television. The Third World mostly consisted of European colonies in the 1950s. The US was against this, but the colonies didn't have any affect on the typical US citizen. In the 1960s, the Third World intruded in unexpected and unpleasant ways, notably the Vietnam War and terrorism. Far from being grateful for the US's advocacy of independence for all, much of the Third World was hostile. All in all, many people began to think of the 50s as the good old days as a result.

Or maybe it's just people who were preteens in the 50s who are nostalgic, because their early childhoods were fun, and real life is harder.

SavoyTruffle
November 6th, 2010, 06:33 AM
People only began to deveop a fondness for the 1950s during the 1970s; I think that you have to look back to what changed in the 1960s to understand why. Drug use among kids proliferated in the 1960s -- basically unheard of in the 1950s; same for sex and swearing in films and on television. The Third World mostly consisted of European colonies in the 1950s. The US was against this, but the colonies didn't have any affect on the typical US citizen. In the 1960s, the Third World intruded in unexpected and unpleasant ways, notably the Vietnam War and terrorism. Far from being grateful for the US's advocacy of independence for all, much of the Third World was hostile. All in all, many people began to think of the 50s as the good old days as a result.

Or maybe it's just people who were preteens in the 50s who are nostalgic, because their early childhoods were fun, and real life is harder.

Yes, for the first, the entire decolonization process left a bad taste in the European's mouth and an even worse taste in the former colonies' mouths.

And for the second, it's because of the baby boom.

Nebogipfel
November 6th, 2010, 10:18 AM
And of course anyone who grew up around the time is going to have especially rose-tinted memories of the period if the earlier part of their childhood was the bit where you were being evacuated and/or bombed.

Although post-war austerity seems to be idealized, too in a certain egalitartain way. Everyone had a hard time, sitting in the same boat etc.

Cuāuhtemōc
November 6th, 2010, 10:52 AM
Plus I imagine the government was good at providing propaganda.

Francisco Cojuanco
November 6th, 2010, 04:53 PM
Because it seems kinda idiotic (in my point of view) to immediately marry a girlfriend (from high school), get married and have babies. That's like immediately marrying my gal.

And thank you for the information Viriato.

And why not? You were (if you couldn't immediately afford college) guarranteed a stable wage right out of high school (now given, said job, being the military, was rather dangerous, but still, it paid decently for the day), and when you were done, if you chose, you could get ahead in life with a heavily-subsidized college education. And your wife would likely take care of the kids at home. It wasn't idiotic then, simply because the economy allowed it to. Today, you can't properly raise a child straight out of high school, simply because you need at least a few years punching the clock to get the requisite resources necessary.

Mark E.
November 6th, 2010, 06:04 PM
Different generations idealize the fifties for different reasons.

Take somebody who was an adult in 1953. They spent much, if not most, their lives surrounded by shortages: shortages of jobs, housing, rationing during WWII, etc. When the economy went back to consumer goods in 1946, there was a pipeline to fill. Localized rent controls persisted into the fifties.

Enter 1953. The VHF television spectrum was suddenly filled across the United States. In 1954, the recording industry settled on a standard for high fidelity music, as 78 RPM records would give way to 45 RPM singles and 33 RPM LP albums. Tape recording slowly entered the market in the early fifties, allowing for special audio effects. The universal impact of new entertainment was immediate.

Automobiles would take on curved, wrap-around windshields, two-tone color patterns and 12 volt batteries. Consumers could see new appliances in the show rooms; they could be had for cash without a waiting list. It would be another 20 years before the average wage earner could fill the home with new items, but the fifties represented the beginning of prosperity.

It was perhaps the freest time for the American housewife, since one income supported a family and appliances had significantly reduced the drudgery of house work.

Those born in the fifties were reminded by their parents that they were very lucky to enjoy so many new conveniences that the past generation never envisioned.

For those impacted by civil rights, it was the beginning of a pursuit that put Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. into the headlines. For the white males who did not appreciate the sharing of their rights, it was the last stand for their own dominance.

For those who are generations too young to remember the fifties, the aura goes full circle back to entertainment. Notice that very few songs from before 1953 are still played in their original form, except for Christmas songs. The difference is as technological as it is cultural. The year 1954 represents the start of modern entertainment.

What we call "the fifties" is really the last half of the decade. There are stage shows and programs dedicated to this brief period, featuring the music and dress. Often time, the viewer forgets how short this period actually was.

JoeMulk
November 6th, 2010, 06:08 PM
politically at least, for Conservatives it was the last time that mom stayed home and for Liberals because mom could afford to stay home...Liberals want to return us to the 50s economically and conservatives want to Socially.

Shevek23
November 6th, 2010, 09:25 PM
Never said they were. I merely asked if taxes were higher then than now - I think corporate taxes were pretty high

The top bracket of personal income taxes was 90 percent in the USA.

Of course, the rich could then as now employ very creative accountants and great influence on Congress to legislate loopholes that went a long way toward nullifying that.

I agree with the trend of comments so far--the 50s weren't so great actually, but they were a big improvement on the previous decades, certainly for US citizens and I think also just about everyone in the world--considering that if Russians, Chinese, and even Western Europeans weren't enjoying American levels of prosperity, at least they also didn't have Hitler or World War II being fought right in their front yards either.

Also, along with fear of global nuclear war and a general right-wing repression (in the West, and ongoing (though actually somewhat moderated) left-wing repression in the Soviet sphere), there was also grounds for hope. The capitalist world economy was enjoying a boom, largely but not entirely to the benefit of Americans. The Soviet and Chinese spheres were being developed too. If only the various political police could back off somewhat and the great powers avoid nuking one another, prospects could be bright.

On the social sphere--the Leave it To Beaver lovers are clinging to a non-existent past to be sure. But insofar as Middle America was enjoying prosperity and security, it was largely due to acceptance of at least some of the New Deal reforms as established, and making them work well.

A lot of people like things like 50's rock and roll. Well, at the time these had their enemies just as pop music does today, for much the same reasons. (Personally I like 50s rock well enough, but 60s stuff even better.) If one was a liberal in those days, the present had some hopeful signs. In many respects, if one likes the 50s one ought to love the 60s when more of these trends had borne more fruit.

The thing is, a lot of American 50s nostalgia is trying to find a sweet spot between taking things they like (like American world dominance, prosperity, and rock) while denying the very trends that pretty much brought these good things about that they hate--the decline of racism as a respectable world-view to be voiced aloud, for instance, or improving gender relations and greater sexual freedom. These things were still in early phases in the 50s and can be more easily imagined away by reactionaries. Also, the dark consequences of a lot of dragon seeds sown in the 50s started coming home to roost more visibly in the 60s--the Vietnam War, the general imposition of dictatorships on the Third World (many of which have successors that we now bemoan).

To many of these people of course things I see as unqualified good things, like the decline of racism, sexism, a greater sense of community in the world as a whole, made definite and hopefully irrevocable changes in the 1960s, and they hate these things. For instance in the 1950s, indeed until the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v Virginia in the late 1960s, interracial marriage was illegal in more states of the Union than not. Ending that sort of thing seems good to me, but bad to them. Not to mention desegregation of schools, legalized birth control, gay rights, etc. For these people, clinging to the 50s over what came after is a vote for repression and bigotry as a way of life, and some of them are quite open about it. Nevermind that even from their reactionary viewpoint they wouldn't really like the real 50s, and if they ISOTed themselves there and crushed all opposition, they'd undercut a lot of what they do like.

Already in the past couple decades I've seen the more "visionary" reactionaries like Grover Norquist and Newt Gingrich give up on pining for the 1950s and start praising 1900 instead. Soon they'll be longing for the 1850s. Actually your pro-Confederacy types are already there...

Tyr
November 7th, 2010, 12:39 AM
They were a transition period. Modern technology but society was still very much non-modern. This is....cool.
Certainly true the 50s in Britain sucked and aren't idealised.
I'm rather fond of France of the period though.

miccal99
November 7th, 2010, 01:07 AM
A) The growth in living standards by a large segment of the population (but not all...check the northern urban and southern rural poverty stats)
B) It was a rather stable, conformist era, after the chaos of the Depression and WWII
C) The lack of civil rights for most of the nation's population (this is mainly from older generations-the one that has the most nostalgia for the era)

Paul Spring
November 7th, 2010, 02:13 AM
Just in the USA, I think that there are different reasons for different people.

Economic prosperity for a pretty large percentage of the population is a big part of it. Even though that prosperity left a lot of people out, it was still pretty widespread. Unprecedented numbers of lower middle and working class people in the USA had access to better education, decent paying and fairly secure jobs, and the opportunity to purchase their own homes. That was a huge deal, especially for the generation whose first memories as children were of the Great Depression.

I think that this economic prosperity fed into a pretty widespread feeling of optimism for many in the USA - if the country could get through the Depression and WWII and come out more prosperous than ever, then there was no problem, no matter how difficult, that the country couldn't solve.

What very few people at the time, even experts, really appreciated, I think, was how much of the USA's prosperity of the time resulted from being the only major industrial and economic power that had come through WWII undamaged. This is my own personal opinion, and feel free to tell me why I'm totally wrong if I am totally wrong, but I think that US companies of the time were able to provide lots of pretty secure, decently paid jobs, pay high taxes, and still make huge profits, largely because there was less competition than there would normally have been because of the effects of WWII. As established industrial powers revived and new powers began to emerge, US companies could only remain profitable by cutting expenses by beginning to move jobs overseas, where there were an increasing number of countries that had the basic infrastructure and economy to provide lots of low-paid unskilled, and later skilled, labor.

Apart from economics, the reason that I think some other people idealize the 1950s is that they believe, rightly or wrongly, that a lot of what they perceive as being bad and destructive about the modern USA either started in the 1960s, or got a lot worse. Cultural conservatives see the 1950s as the last decade when the nuclear family with the man as the breadwinner and the woman as the homemaker was the dominant cultural ideal. They also see it as the last decade when a variety of practices that they consider destructive, such as divorce, delayed marriage, extended dependence on parents well into adulthood, and frequent premarital sex, were strongly discouraged and carried a social stigma. The 50s are also seen as the last decade when violent crime and widespread drug abuse were not very widespread.

Whether these perceptions reflect reality is a whole different question. Just speaking for myself, I tend to think that a lot of the family and social problems that were allegedly rare in the 1950s, such as alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence and abuse, teenage pregnancy, and violent crime, were actually quite a bit more common than people often think, but they were less well known because people either actively concealed them or at least did not publicize them to the extent that became normal in later periods. Other things, like divorce and delayed (or no) marriage, definitely were much less common in the 1950s, but this is not always a good thing. While easy divorce is undoubtedly destructive in many cases, I suspect that there are also quite a few cases where the stigma against divorce pressured couples with a very hostile and dysfunctional relationship into staying together, resulting in a hostile and abusive environment for their children which was even worse for them than a divorce would have been.

I apologize if I turned my commentary on the 1950s into a soapbox speech about the possible risks of over-idealizing the past.:o

archaeogeek
November 7th, 2010, 02:22 AM
A) The growth in living standards by a large segment of the population (but not all...check the northern urban and southern rural poverty stats)
B) It was a rather stable, conformist era, after the chaos of the Depression and WWII
C) The lack of civil rights for most of the nation's population (this is mainly from older generations-the one that has the most nostalgia for the era)

C - Ah yes "Do you remember when women didn't have the vote and certain folks weren't allowed on golf courses? Pettridge Farms remembers." ;)

oldgringo2001
November 7th, 2010, 07:34 AM
Actually the true "Good Old Days" of the Fifties ran from the end of the Korean War to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, twelve or thirteen years of relative prosperity and an apparently improving situation for everyone in the United States. It was best to be white, of course, but things were already improving quite a lot if you weren't, and, if you were white and liberal, you could feel good that things were getting better for people who weren't white and liberal. And it was best to be young, from rugrat to college kids. It is always possible to set other start- and end-points; for instance, the censure of Joe McCarthy to the assassination of JFK. But I'll hold for mine because before 1953 you still had Stalin around, and with the Watts riots and the first big deployment of American troops to Vietnam, both in 1965, the basic liberal-civil-rights coalition that had accomplished so much began to fall apart.

It wasn't until the end of this era that having divorced parents or an unmarried mother became a more common childhood experience than an intact family. As a child from a broken home, I was very much an odd-boy-out in elementary school. I was about the only one until Mrs. Gammet from across the street actually had an affair with a married man that there were four more children from broken homes in the county. (Mr. Gammet re-married and had ten more kids.)

Science and Technology had delivered miracles and promised more. Polio was conquered. Tuberculosis nearly became extinct. Pneumonia went from being a death sentence to a shot of penicillin. Electricity was cheap and available even in isolated farm homes. The Atomic Age melded into the Space Age, and we actually knew we'd be going to the moon. Labor and management had reached compromise; wages were good; anyone could find a job if they really wanted to work. Women could work, but more and more of them didn't have to work outside the home.

Other people have noticed that the Fifties were basically wonderful for the USA because World War II had hammered everyone else. Exports were one reason there was high employment over the period: There was more than the American market to sell to. However, the USA also exported its culture. American popular music and American movies had already been busily eroding traditional values around the world since the turn of the century, but now as a style model, the USA had no real rivals.

The USA retains its lead over the rest of the world in style. Why? We're further into the future than everyone else. We got our head start in the Fifties and kept it. But at the end of the Fifties, our leadership stopped being so much fun; it lost its last trace of innocence.

How can I be so sure we'll keep that lead? Because the smartest people in the rest of the world keep coming here to work, and most of them stay.

bulbaquil
November 7th, 2010, 01:14 PM
The definition of the cultural Fifties varies (as opposed to the calendrical Fifties, which were of course 1/1/50-12/31/59), but I've always thought of it as being the Eisenhower-Kennedy years (1953-1963), or more generally the end of the Korean War (which more or less felt like an extension of the Forties) to the Kennedy assassination (which I believe ushered in the Sixties).

Basically (in America):

I. If you were white and born before about 1924, you remember the horrors of the Depression and (if male) probably fought in WWII (unless you were too old, in which case you probably fought in WWI). You might be an immigrant seeing the American Dream realized, and understanding that the risks you took immigrating to America are paying off.

II. If you were white and born in the mid-to-late '20s or early-to-mid '30s, you feel pretty lucky. You don't remember the Depression very well (and especially not the Hoover years, which were the worst), but were old enough to understand WWII and to appreciate the availability of plenty now (in the Fifties) compared to the rationing during WWII. You're starting out your life in a good time to do so - the suburbs are a great place to raise kids, you can get a decent job straight out of high school whether blue-collar or white-collar, and if you were drafted into or enlisted in the military the GI Bill ensures you can go to college if you so desire. Times are good. (It should be pointed out that people born in this time period were starting to control the higher echelons of media during the '70s, when '50s nostalgia started to kick in.)

III. If you were white and born in the late '30s or during WWII, your adolescence occurred during the cultural Fifties, when the whole idea of teen culture was starting to pick up. If you were of a musical bent, rock and roll was new and exciting and had yet to permeate everything. Entertainment was affordable, and you could work at McDonalds or any of those other fast-food places that were just now being founded to save up to buy YOUR VERY OWN CAR. Once you turned 18, the same principles as in (II) applied, except that if you entered the military (either by draft or enlistment), you were comparatively lucky: you'd skipped Korea and we hadn't really gotten into Vietnam yet. (People born here were starting to control the middle echelons of media when '50s nostalgia started to kick in.)

IV. If you were white and born during the Truman presidency, you were a child during the cultural Fifties, and what with the rise of suburbia and the permissive parenting practices of the late '50s, it was a rather good time to be a kid. You could have awesome-tasting food at these new fast food places ("nutrition"? What's that?), and all sorts of new toys had come out. Slinkies! Silly Putty! These are the first wave of Baby Boomers, and because they are Baby Boomers, there are a lot of them. (People born here were starting to control the lower echelons of media when '50s nostalgia started to kick in.)

V. It's worth noting that for children (by which I really do mean minors) - i.e. those born during the Eisenhower years, who are also Baby Boomers - even the late '60s really felt like a continuation of the '50s - things really weren't that different. This coupled with the promotions of echelons (III) and (IV) higher in media kind of helped push '50s nostalgia along even into the '80s (e.g. Back to the Future), while also bringing '60s nostalgia in.

VI. If you were black, things were still pretty bad, but even for you things were getting better. The KKK was not as active as it was during the '20s, and the Civil Rights Movement was getting started around this time. You heard about Rosa Parks. You heard about Brown v. Board of Education. The military formally integrated in '48, etc.

VII. If you were neither white nor black, things were probably pretty bad - but "minority" really did mean minority; there just weren't that many people in group VII, so for the vast majority of people, things were looking pretty good.

VIII. If you're a social liberal born at any time (even well after the '50s), the '50s are seen as a time in which the seeds of change were being sown (in the form of the Civil Rights movement, the beatnik proto-counterculture, rock and roll, etc.), to sprout during the '60s.

IX. If you're a social conservative born at any time (even well after the '50s), the '50s are seen as the period exemplifying "the way it should be", the last time period of normality before the '60s turned everything upside-down.

X. If you're a unionist, unions were near their peak power in America in the '50s.

XI. Conversely, if you're a corporate capitalist, business was booming in the '50s. The stock market was higher than it had ever been, even during the 1957-58 recession, and starting up a new small business - or even a big business, really - was relatively easy.

Hendryk
November 7th, 2010, 01:24 PM
It was also a time of personal freedom if you can believe that. There was no conception of a "nanny state" that told you what was and wasn't good for you.
I take issue with this kind of statement, which comes up every damn time the 1950s are discussed. In the 1950s the state decided on your behalf which race your spouse was supposed to be, it decided which movies you were allowed to watch, which books you were allowed to read, and which prophylactics you were allowed to use, among a long list of various invasive decisions. Nanny state? More like straight-laced spinster aunt state.

MerryPrankster
November 7th, 2010, 01:25 PM
I take issue with this kind of statement, which comes up every damn time the 1950s are discussed. In the 1950s the state decided on your behalf which race your spouse was supposed to be, it decided which movies you were allowed to watch, which books you were allowed to read, and which prophylactics you were allowed to use, among a long list of various invasive decisions. Nanny state? More like straight-laced spinster aunt state.

If you're talking about obscenity laws, they still exist now.

Hendryk
November 7th, 2010, 01:30 PM
If you're talking about obscenity laws, they still exist now.
They were much stricter and more stringently enforced at the time.

One other possibility for why the 50s get idealized--in some ways it seems like it was the last American decade when adults instead of youths were at the center of entertainment and culture.
Adults might have been at the center of entertainment and culture, but they were treated like 12-year-olds. No onscreen kiss for you, it will give you dirty thoughts!

MerryPrankster
November 7th, 2010, 01:45 PM
Adults might have been at the center of entertainment and culture, but they were treated like 12-year-olds. No onscreen kiss for you, it will give you dirty thoughts!

Did the content standards come from the government or simply a more conservative film industry?

The Hays Code was from the studios, not the government.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_Picture_Production_Code

Granted, it was an attempt to pre-empt federal regulation, but the modern video-game-rating system is the same thing--the gaming industry decided to regulate itself lest the government regulate it.

MerryPrankster
November 7th, 2010, 01:49 PM
And doesn't this belong in the Chat forum?

Hendryk
November 7th, 2010, 02:00 PM
Did the content standards come from the government or simply a more conservative film industry?
Either way, the results were the same: an infantilized public. Entertainment was sanitized, bamboozled and brought in line with arbitrary moral codes until the entire pop culture was reduced to G-rated shows. Elvis couldn't even do a few dance steps without being censored, and June Cleaver somehow didn't sleep in the same bed as her husband.

Francisco Cojuanco
November 7th, 2010, 02:35 PM
Either way, the results were the same: an infantilized public. Entertainment was sanitized, bamboozled and brought in line with arbitrary moral codes until the entire pop culture was reduced to G-rated shows. Elvis couldn't even do a few dance steps without being censored, and June Cleaver somehow didn't sleep in the same bed as her husband.
To be fair, a lot of these things were considered ridiculous even then. So basically when things changed, it was the film industry playing catch-up.

Francisco Cojuanco
November 7th, 2010, 02:39 PM
I take issue with this kind of statement, which comes up every damn time the 1950s are discussed. In the 1950s the state decided on your behalf which race your spouse was supposed to be, it decided which movies you were allowed to watch, which books you were allowed to read, and which prophylactics you were allowed to use, among a long list of various invasive decisions. Nanny state? More like straight-laced spinster aunt state.

(re: miscegenation) Not in California or the more populated parts of the North.

(re: film industry) See previous post.

(re: books) IIRC the only censored topics were contraceptives, abortion and to a lesser extent Communism.

(re: prophylactics) I concede there.

But still, for the average Joe and Jane, they would have hardly cared, and it likely didn't seem a big deal at the time, just as having a game-rating system isn't seen as too much of a big deal now (unless you happen to be Australian, ion which case, I'm glad I'm gone).


VII. If you were neither white nor black, things were probably pretty bad - but "minority" really did mean minority; there just weren't that many people in group VII, so for the vast majority of people, things were looking pretty good.


Actually, even there, it was not so bad. If you were in this category, it meant you were married to a current or former serviceman, which lent itself to a good bit of social respect; if you weren't, it likely meant you were a refugee from one of the Cold War's more violent flashes, and thus you were grateful you lived in a place where going to work or church did not mean risking crossfire, and that you likely were more able to get three square a day.

Now, given, you still could face private discrimination, even outside the South, but I think most people in most times in history would put relative safety over racial discrimination, if only as the lesser of two evils.

Dr. Nodelescu
November 7th, 2010, 02:48 PM
@ MerryPrankster: Yes. It should indeed.

Where am I supposed to start?

The 1950s (and maybe most of the 1960s as well) were essentially a time when (relative) scarcity seemed to have ended, but mostly enjoyed by people who had lively remembrance of the scarcity that used to be. They didn't take it for granted because they didn't grow up with it. They grew up with their old-fashioned values and lived them in the new prosperity.

Though if you were born into the new prosperity, the old-fashioned survival values (stick together even if you don't like one another, conformism, "family values" etc.) became essentially obsolete and their was no real need to adapt them. And with the ascence of televesion, these "symptoms" of prosperity started to spread into every living room, every billboard, everywhere you could watch. People used the opportunity to afford self-expression values (non-conformity, individualism etc.) they wouldn't have afforded 20 years before, and this marks the later boundary of the hyper-idealized post-war time. And about 50's culture, well, the US wasn't as bombed out as most of Europe which needed reconstruction. But hey, if your (former) daily life was strife and scarcity, you want to watch an idyllic world to forget their hardship. When said hardship no longer exists in that amount, you can spot your attention to evils, cynism, hedonism etc. because your attention wasn't distracted by the daily struggle of survival.

MerryPrankster
November 7th, 2010, 02:54 PM
The 1950s (and maybe most of the 1960s as well) were essentially a time when (relative) scarcity seemed to have ended, but mostly enjoyed by people who had lively remembrance of the scarcity that used to be. They didn't take it for granted because they didn't grow up with it. They grew up with their old-fashioned values and lived them in the new prosperity.


That seems to sum it up--compared to the Depression and WWII, the 1950s seemed to be a land of milk and honey.

(There's a song entitled "Kids of the Baby Boom" that even uses the phrase "land of milk and honey.")

Pre-1950s, you had all the problems social critics point out about the 1950s and much worse poverty too.

Typo
November 7th, 2010, 03:20 PM
They were much stricter and more stringently enforced at the time. Also the blacklist!

MerryPrankster
November 7th, 2010, 03:51 PM
Also the blacklist!

Which was something private industry, not the government, did.

Shevek23
November 7th, 2010, 05:09 PM
(re: miscegenation) Not in California or the more populated parts of the North.

But it was impossible for a mixed-race married couple to cross the United States from one of these bastions of tolerance to the other without becoming felons en route.


....

(re: books) IIRC the only censored topics were contraceptives, abortion and to a lesser extent Communism.

(re: prophylactics) I concede there.

But still, for the average Joe and Jane, they would have hardly cared, and it likely didn't seem a big deal at the time...

Now let's stipulate that the "average Joe and Jane" didn't worry too much about being denied free legal access to Marxist texts. (For that matter, I'm not sure there was actual censorship of strictly political stuff--it's just that getting caught with it would put everything else you did under suspicion).

But seriously now, do you think that Joe and Jane had no concern whatsoever with being blocked from birth-control related items and information? The latter would get you in trouble, for "obscenity." The former would get you in trouble on those grounds plus others.

It might be that Joe was generally less bothered by this sort of repression than Jane was. But that brings us closer to the crux of this thread's original question, which is not so much "Were the 1950s seen as a good time at the time?" as "Why do so many modern people idealize the 1950s?" One category of nostalgics is definitely those who think that what I call "sexual freedom" and "gender equality" is a bad thing.

How many of us here have actually read Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique? I was quite surprised when I finally did, to learn that Friedan was not bemoaning a general and eternal suppression of women from time immemorial. No, she was comparing the experiences of women of her generation, coming of age in the late 1940s and 1950s, with the accepted cultural expectations for women in just the two decades before. Her claim was that in the postwar years, women were quite actively and systematically forced out of public life and places they had won for themselves outside the domestic sphere were eroded and denied them.

Another very interesting if less famous book to consider in this context is Leslie Reagan's When Abortion Was a Crime. Reagan examines the history of the actual practice of abortion as well as its legal status in the United States (focusing mainly on the Chicago region) from the late eighteenth century until Supreme Court ruled in Roe v Wade. Interestingly, while abortion was largely illegal in most of this period, it was criminalized mainly on the grounds of restricting medical practice to approved professionals--a properly licensed medical professional could always terminate a pregnancy on ground of "medical necessity," and the controversy was fought over what was and was not medically necessary. Reagan observes several phases of the practice, such as the initial battle to impose medical professionalism (ie ban midwives), the long period when licensed MDs did predominate but these doctors were private practitioners generally hired by the mother of a family (therefore strongly inclined to find "medical necessity" whenever these matriarchs deemed they should, lest they lose customers), through the evolution of more centralized hospitals which spurred the parallel evolution of specialized abortion clinics. This takes us up to the WWII era, when although abortion clinics were in a shadowy, dubious legal position and sometimes subject to raids, it was still generally possible for a woman to find a reasonably safe place to terminate a pregnancy. Postwar, the Roman Catholic Church found allies among "cultural conservatives" as we say nowadays, particularly well in alignment with anti-Communists, to start systematically shutting down these clinics and imposing ever stricter scrutiny on hospital ethics boards to stringently deny nearly every application for abortion in those institutions. Thus, despite the fact that advances in medical technology had made abortion a safer procedure than ever before (if conducted in a properly run medical facility) this period, this "Fab Fifties" running into the '60s, was the time of the real bloodbath for women, the era of the back-alley abortionist and hospital wards filling with women dying from their mistakes.

On this thread some of us have already alluded to the dark side of '50s nostalgia in the matter of it being the time before the Civil Rights ball really got rolling in terms of results.

Actually the true "Good Old Days" of the Fifties ran from the end of the Korean War to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965...

Funny how the Civil Rights Act makes such a convenient bookend for the end of the "good old days," isn't it.

Well, I just think that in addition to race relations, we should look at gender relations too. For someone living in those days, there were generally rays of hope, though as Betty Friedan and Leslie Reagan make clear, for some people (half the population in fact) the clock was clearly running backward. Looking backward, to favor these days of possible hope and certain fear over the days when hopes came to better fruition is I think evidence of reaction.

bulbaquil
November 7th, 2010, 05:24 PM
@ MerryPrankster: Yes. It should indeed.
Though if you were born into the new prosperity, the old-fashioned survival values (stick together even if you don't like one another, conformism, "family values" etc.) became essentially obsolete and their was no real need to adapt them. And with the ascence of televesion, these "symptoms" of prosperity started to spread into every living room, every billboard, everywhere you could watch. People used the opportunity to afford self-expression values (non-conformity, individualism etc.) they wouldn't have afforded 20 years before, and this marks the later boundary of the hyper-idealized post-war time. And about 50's culture, well, the US wasn't as bombed out as most of Europe which needed reconstruction. But hey, if your (former) daily life was strife and scarcity, you want to watch an idyllic world to forget their hardship. When said hardship no longer exists in that amount, you can spot your attention to evils, cynism, hedonism etc. because your attention wasn't distracted by the daily struggle of survival.

Exactly. This is why the massive social revolutions of the late '60s/early '70s didn't happen until the late '60s. Technically speaking, they could have begun when cohort III as defined in my previous post hit adulthood, since they never experienced (at least at an age where they could appreciate) the hardships of the Depression/WWII but there were more or less three factors that limited that:

- Cohort III was much smaller than cohort IV, and
- When cohort III was starting their adult lives, the civil rights movement hadn't kicked into full gear yet.

The Civil Rights Movement (which was itself at least partially galvanized by the effects of black WWII veterans returning home to segregation) more or less acted as sort of a model for the later social movements to base themselves off of, and the Baby Boomers provided the manpower for these movements.

There's also perhaps the television gap between cohort III (which likely spent the bulk of their pre-adult life without TV) and cohort IV (which spent the bulk of their pre-adult life, and certainly their adolescent life, with TV).

Typo
November 7th, 2010, 06:52 PM
Which was something private industry, not the government, did.I think the private sector did that because of McCarthyism which was pretty much a red scare sponsored by certain members of the government