23 Apr 2022


Visions of Classlessness, American Pop Culture

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Academic level: College

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The article Visions of Classlessness, Quests for dominion: American popular culture, 1945-1960 by Ronald Marchand brings out the changes that were observed after the WW II in the U.S. Although there was looming possibility of postwar depression, people had high expectations of achieving a future of independence, reduced individual autonomy and centralized governance. The author points out that the WW II unlike other phenomena in the 20th century led to national consolidation as migration resulting from the war increased provincial limits and diminishing of class barriers. The democratic theme of popular culture during the time of war was expected to uphold unity, enhance wealth redistribution, and give a positive economic democratization.

Marchand explains that after the war, a more homogeneous popular culture emerged as consolidation was reinforced. The increasing trend of homogeneity was measured through the reduced competition from the different ethnic cultures. Foreign-language information carriers like newspapers also reduced and network radio enhanced its national coverage. Although some people remained stuck to their subcultures, many Americans enjoyed common popular fare. Decrease in class and regional variation in recreational activities and clothing was another measure for homogeneity. 

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The author points out signs of national culture in the common furniture taste as publication of regional catalogues reduced. Variations on taste in food were diminishing and ‘Pop Architecture’ was observed everywhere. The television viewership increased compared to any other mass media and its national performance standard brought down the commercial entertainments that had provincial coverage and carried ethnic culture. Television brought a sense of harmony as it incorporated brand names and images that served the national interest as well as promoting a common national language. California culture is one of the crucial elements of popular culture that was supported by TV. The Californian culture was considered democratic as it offered a wide range of products that showed disapproval for environmental limits.

Every kind of architectural setting that sought for openness showed togetherness and democracy. The kitchen was directly linked to the family room where all family members gathered to watch the TV. The California ranch was declared a symbol of unity of preference for the poor and the rich. This ranch characterized the after war dream of dominion and classlessness. The achievement of classlessness was enshrined in the popular culture that was already being enjoyed by Americans. Economic levels were eliminated and people intermingled in sports. Winners of various games were seen as common men and women who symbolized a democracy in intelligence.

The author notes that the change in people’s lifestyle was associated with the rise in the average income such those who earned high salary enjoyed the popular culture goods and services. Many appreciated their material stability but others were able to identify looming deprivation of independence. The author brings out two signs of progress and reclamation of lost dominion respectively. Men in the modern society have dominated over women. Popular culture brought up feminine roles and women were mostly seen as housewives although many women were employed, hence giving a national role status.

The focus that was made regarding masculinity might have been as a result of fear that emphasizing leisure might make many people lose their drive to oppose communism. Since many people were hurt during the war, many of them tried to get solace through religion. Many religious books were bought and church membership increased in many churches. Patriotism and religion worked towards facing out atheism. Protestantism, Judaism and Catholicism were seen as the main working point as ethnic subcultures became extinct. Although people acknowledged that the bible is a word of God, almost none had real insight of the bible.

The author notes that before the war, psychology was popularly known among the educated people. This was enhanced after the WW II and many books were written to tackle various areas of interest in psychology. It is true that the enthusiasm for psychology was not universally accepted for adoption of psychological techniques as many people tried to provide explanations for various aspects of life but fears of being objects rather than agents of manipulation overcame them. Many fictional works were feared that they could lead to brain-washing and no psychology gave an assurance of dominion. ‘Cult of reassurance’ was highly promoted to encourage combination of religion and psychology. 

The popular culture of reassurance was not taken by everyone as a sole reason for powerlessness and it was believed that the uniting tendencies worked towards reinforcing the applied psychology theme of adjustments. With the diminishing of regional class variations, some Americans fought for dominion through diversity and rebellion rather than adjustments. Division according to age was becoming rampant and juvenile delinquency was growing. This prompted the media industry to come up with films that suited the teens and other minority audiences. The media tried to explore the rebellious behavior of the teens’ culture but it ended up creating gaps in the popular culture.

Marchand finally points out in the article that popular music industry had faced fragmentations as radio stations boycotted leading to a break in monopoly. As the TV attracted many audiences, radio opted to broadcast minority tastes. The radio gave teenage-suitable programmes such as ‘rock n roll.’ Polarization assault on popular music by rock and roll later occurred as new rift in music came up. People with extreme views remained determined to push for their views but a climax in rock and roll music and reconciled it with the main popular culture. The popular culture provided conducive atmosphere to Americans as they hoped to enjoy a period of classlessness as well as dominion.

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 14). Visions of Classlessness, American Pop Culture.


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