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The Changing Attitudes of the 1920’s in America Essay Sample

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The Changing Attitudes of the 1920’s in America Essay Sample

The 1920’s were a period of tension between new and changing attitudes on the one hand and conservative values on the other. In fact, some historians refer to the twenties as the first decade of the twentieth century. What accounts for this observation? How did some people challenge those changes?A major fact that contributes to the twenties being seen as the first decade of the twentieth century is that modern attitudes about labor and consumption began to develop. The system of Fordism, or mass production, involved the usage of interchangeable parts and electric power so that production could be as fast as possible. Conveyor belts were employed to move subassemblies past workers who tightened a few bolts or installed one part. This assembly line method led to a major increase in output. The managers at the factories were very concerned with the speed of production and did everything in their power to ensure that it was very fast. Workers were laboring under more intense supervision compared to previous years.

They were being encouraged to work more efficiently. For example, in textile factories there was a higher quota of looms that the workers had to meet. Less satisfying work accompanied mass production. It was monotonous and required little to no skill. These workers sought pleasure through the consumption of goods and services, known as consumerism. Those that were middle-class workers were being paid more and had more vacations. They also contributed to consumerism. More money was being spent on advertising campaigns that promoted the usage of modern goods by the American public. Advertising is a major part of the marketing world today and contributes to people buying certain products.

The emphasis on pleasure, as demonstrated by consumerism is evident in the fact that spectator sports, radio, and movies were a major part of the culture of the 1920’s. In fact, the American Professional Football Association, currently called the National Football League, was established in 1920. Movie attendance was very high and major film companies were thriving and dominating the industry. Another interesting notion dealing with new pleasures is that in this innovative and new period of time, a very innovative genre of music began to develop. This music was jazz, which spread quickly to many major cities in the United States.

A major part of modern capitalism, large-scale organization, developed during this time. this is because only big businesses could afford the expensive practice of Fordism which included expensive machinery and huge factories. Many mergers occurred, leading to major companies controlling more factories than ever before. Closely related to this, the work force was dramatically transforming. Work was simplified and regimented as according to mass production. It was much less satisfying than before and many workers quit their jobs. At the same time, there was a transformation in the kind of work people were doing. This marked the beginning of the evolution from manual labor to white-collar work in sales and service. The end of this evolution is much more modern and postindustrial.

Accompanying the sexual revolution, in which movies explored sexual topics and there were many sexual images being seen, gender ideals changed as well. Another modern aspect of the 1920’s was the image of the New Woman. This was the woman that was independent and assertive. Not only was she an object of males’ sexual desire, but she had desires of her own. The typical image of a woman during this time was one wearing a short skirt and having bobbed hair. Women had begun to be more involved in the public sphere, rather than solely the domestic sphere. Individualism was also a part of the image of the New Woman. Women wanted to be individuals, as men were. Consumerism is also related to this because men and women began to buy products that were tailored to their individual desires. Soon it was not only men and women that were enjoying these pleasures, but also children and teenagers. The entire family dynamic was changing into a much more modern one.

The new culture that emerged through consumerism, industry, and the New Women was very modern and at the same time very secular. There was a fundamentalist-liberal battle as a result of this that occurred. The Fundamentalist Christians began to challenge the changes that were happening. They were troubled by the fact that the new culture, consisting of pleasure, leisure, and consumpton, was so secular. American society had begun to become more concerned with material possessions rather than religious beliefs and practices. From their perspective, the modern world was rejecting old values and ways of life, specifically their belief in Christianity.


Making A Nation: The United States and its Peopleby Nick Cullather

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