Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

Lizbeth Cohen, “Culture: Segmenting the Mass”

Lizbeth Cohen, “Culture: Segmenting the Mass” from her book The Consumers’ Republic is an excerpt composed of illustrations, ideas expressing political/marketing, and much more. Cohen starts off by talking about world war II and after the war ended American consumerism was booming. She specifically emphasizes the complex implications of mass consumption on postwar social interactions and political culture in particular. As it was on the rise as more and more people returned to somewhat of a peaceful life without having to worry about getting attacked or taken over.  As at the end of the war in Cohen’s opinion, the most profitable way to achieve wealth was through the mass market. But how can one trust the market as it was doubtful and marketers began to raise questions that down streamed a lot of methods that people thought were profitable. Which gained a whole lot of attention as the economy in 1957 faced recession. 

Cohen continues on exploring more of mass-market as she recognizes many theorists during that era. The contributions of major theorists were to have a significant impact on the subject of market segmentation. Wendel Smith was the first to advocate market segmentation as an alternative to mass marketing, claiming that the best way to stimulate the economy was through the “recognition of differences.” Which I found quite interesting as market segmentation was something of big influence as that makes it more approachable and easier to deal with. Cohen’s interest is in understanding how marketers, advertisers, and propaganda makers came to shift ground so decisively between mid-1945 and 1970, and then what this rethinking of the mass market, as distinct communities of consumers with distinct needs, desires, and product preferences, resulted in specific target customers. 

Consumerism had to be diverted into something different like television which was made larger and electronic items that made daily life easier. Which led to restyling of mass consumer goods. As we continue interpreting Cohen’s perspective we can read how cohen puts a lot of emphasis on television becoming the new frontier for advertisement rallying up consumers for more and more. Which only boosted market segmentation as consumerism was booming due to high demand and supply. In my opinion, this shows economic slavery in a sense where marketers use consumerism to enslave citizens back and back again for more. Ironically market segmentation and major consumerism have been only possible because of industrial production and how items became cheaper so they can provide to all sorts of customers. Cohen continues to talk about consumerism by including economic groups like children, teenagers, seniors, black, and the gay market which all contributed to market segmentation as they all created a demand for supplies which the marketers kept on bringing out. This can be seen in modern-day consumerism companies like apple and amazon are mega-powerful marketers and they use consumers to fuel their efficiency. At the very last Cohen talks more about the political perspective where she discusses how market structure ad political structure had similarities as consumers started using television to only look at the mass market but also political news. Talking about the hidden persuaders and American democracy. Cohen goes more in-depth talking about the political sphere in the later 1960s which included crafting special messages for distinctive segments where the political leader would run campaigns like Kennedy and Nixon.

 I do not think this is enough writing to cover the entirety of this beautiful and unique excerpt but by Lizabeth Cohen but what I do know is that consumerism can be looked at as something that is normal but in my opinion, I find it be somewhat like salvery as to consumerism people fall enslave to the mass market. A real-life example would be how we are enslaved to our phones on daily basis but going that is only going to get worse as there is no stop to consumerism. But one important thing I did learn is that consumerism and the mass market keep the economy booming as that includes aspects like supply/demand which profits capitalism but in Cohen’s perspective, this is a sphere people are not going to break out of any time soon which I agree with.

Blog Post 4 Rauchway Reading

In Rauchway’s book, chapter 4 titled “Reflation and Relief” pointed out many of the futuristic plans of Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was trying to collapse the brutal economic crisis of the Great Depression. The Great Depression took place in 1933 and right in the middle of World War 1 and World War 2. The stock market crash that happened in 1929 was the result of almost an entire decade of economic success in the United States. Franklin D. Roosevelt took oath as President in 1933 and was determined to put everything back in its place. He produced a series of acts and plans called the New Deal Act which was Roosevelt’s way of fixing the crisis along with his administration. One of the targets made by the New Deal Act was the rise of unemployment and people struggling to stay on their feet. The Civilian Conservation Corps or the CCC was created to provide new work opportunities for men between the ages of 18 and 35. Since there were a lot of fires and floods, their job was to preserve the nation’s forest life as well as repair broken roads, bridges, and other damaged resources. Providing these opportunities helped men earn more money and keep the overall economy somewhat in better shape. 

Another upside of Roosevelt’s New Deal Act is that it provided security for people’s money inside banks. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Any savings from local residents would be saved by the federal government. Although President Roosevelt himself had some doubts about all the banks losing the money, he still went with the plan. Contrary to his disbeliefs, FDIC reduced the number of bank failures as Rauchway put it on page 2 of the chapter, “The president worried that the government would one day find itself forced to pay out too large a sum for failed banks, but he accepted the plan…FDIC bank failures dropped by an order of magnitude”. Roosevelt held a radio talk called the “fireside chat”, which is an event held by himself to explain his plans of reform to the larger masses. Ironically as he was assuring the voters, he knew he was steering away from having more money in the economy. 

While President Roosevelt had many great ideas for reform and relief in the U.S economy, not all of his ideas came to reality. FDR feared that his administration would need to inflate U.S currency so that he could still be able to prove a rise in economic stability. It’s important to connect these ideas to today where we are in the midst of a global pandemic known as COVID-19. Our former President, Mr. Donald Trump did not act rapidly to put a stop to the everlasting growth of cases around the United States as well as other countries. The Trump administration did not close down local transportation or air travel quickly enough. Had they done so in a timely manner, we would be a little safer, to say the least. After the lackadaisical efforts of President Trump, current President Joe Biden had been elected to fix the already done damage. While they have fixed a significant number of pre-existing problems, there are still a lot of problems that have not been fixed or have gotten worse since he was elected. Therefore, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s situation is similar to the current one as they both aimed to find new ways problems within the U.S government. 

Blog Post #4: Rauchway’s “Reflation and Relief”

The reading titled “Reflation and Relief” by Rauchway explores the importance and impact of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency. Specifically in Chapter 4 of the reading, it scrutinizes the benefits of what FDR’s presidency brought, yet it also features the downfalls that came along with it. Between 3-4 years prior to FDR’s presidency was the start of the Great Depression, an occurrence beginning in October 1929 following the crash of the stock market, later coming to an end in 1939. ( Editors, 2009) As supported in the reading, the Great Depression ultimately led to a downfall in the US economy: “When Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the oath of office as president for the first time on March 4, 1933, every moving part of the American economy had evidently broken. Banks, farms, factories, and trade had all failed.” The results being: a lack of employment, overproduction due to stocks and demands being unmet, housing prices facing a downward slope and more. With the concern and panic rising in society, Roosevelt taking office in 1933 took matters into his own hands. (page 1) 

While running for office, Roosevelt sparked the phrase “New Deal,” which did not guarantee any promises but the phrase was liked by a majority so he kept it as is. Overall, a method of how Roosevelt ran his presidency. “The Roosevelt agenda grew by experiment: the parts that worked, stuck, no matter their origin.” One act in association to the New Deal was the banking holiday which took place just two days after Roosevelt took office. Roosevelt requested approval for what is known as the Emergency Banking Act. He kept in mind the goal to resolve the banking failure at the time. The act resulted in closing of banks for four days to reorganize the system, some banks remained closed while others reopened in hopes of improving the economy. In addition to the banking issues at the time, Roosevelt used the Trading with the Enemy Act to further assist the bank failures by enforcing more banking laws. (page 1 & 2) One in particular method mentioned by Rauchway, “To inflate the currency, Roosevelt would have to cut the dollar loose from gold…” (page 3)

Other than resolving the banking failures during the Great Depression, Roosevelt made an attempt to resolve unemployment rates that were at an all time low. Roosevelt made it a priority to help America back on its feet, assisting men in the age range of 18-35 to find work. Roosevelt used funding towards housing to help bring back up the housing prices that were facing a downward slope. His message from assisting with Americans’ employment and fundings being that he didn’t want the Americans to rely on the government, especially if the results were that the government were giving more than they received. (page 5 & 7) 

In conclusion, Rauchway’s reading “Reflation and Relief” was a great refresher on what I’ve learned before regarding the Great Depression and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency. Overall, the reading summarized the highlights of what Roosevelt did but also included the not so successful plans he enforced. FDR ran office to help solve the issues arising and was mainly successful through it all. I mainly focused on Rauchway’s highlights of FDR’s presidency and successful plans because they were more impactful towards the economy but the ones that didn’t go as plan were still important because it showed great efforts in what FDR did for America. 


Blog#4 Rauchway chapter4 “Reflation and Relief”

In Rauchway’s book, chapter 4, “Reflation and Relief,” emphasizes how President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised a new deal to solve the problem of people losing their jobs. The Great Depression was a worldwide economic disintegration caused by a stock market crash in the United States that resulted in the closure of all banks. Roosevelt began by rescuing the banks. Two days after taking office, he declared the nation’s banks must stop transactions in gold, thus shutting them down, and he asked Congress to ratify his action. “(Ruchway) The Great Depression lasted ten years, from 1929 to 1939. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the one who changed the Great Depression by instituting the New Deal, which he promised would end the depression. He also set up a slew of other programs.

Many young adults lost their jobs due to the Great Depression. “Young workers, with fewer skills and experience, found themselves out of work more often than workers at the peak of their powers… if nobody did anything to help them soon, young men were most likely to leave their communities, becoming tramps or hoboes, posing a threat to social order.” (Rauchway 5) This evidence from Raucheay’s chapter shows that neither the government nor Congress is planning for this. The young adult will most likely end up homeless. As a result, President FDR established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which assists young adults between the ages of 18 to 35 in finding work. In Rauchway’s chapter, he discusses how the new deal helped the country get back on its feet, and FDR also announced a moratorium on gold transfers to create inflation in order to help the economy recover as before. 

blog post #4

In “Reflation and Relief” by Rauchway, talks about the New Deal enacted by Franklin Roosevelt and how it caused the growth of the American economy, decreased the percentage of unemployment, and saved Capitalism, it aided industries in increasing their output and profits. FDR announced to stop gold transitions in nation’s banks to create inflation to help the economy regain its power and he closed all banks for 4 days to inspect the accounts. 

During the Great depression, people were facing unemployment problems, so the congress established many administrations to help the government and community. As an example, the CCC,which FDR believed in to help unemployed men aged from 18 to 25 who matched some terms like being single, in a good health condition, and an American citizen to join programs to improve forests, build parks and bridges. Also, the FERA played a significant role by providing grants to the states to support established projects and works there. 

On the other hand the PWA and CWA weren’t that effective and had a weak effect on unemployment, despite spending large amounts of money (the PWA’s purse contained $3.3 billion) which made Roosevelt worried and nervous that the government spends money more than it gets and he also didn’t want Americans to depend directly on the federal government for relief programs, “Roosevelt conceded the necessity of a national work relief program, but he did not want it to “ become a habit with the country.” (Page 7). It was easier for him and for the government to just distribute money to those in need, but he believed that people shouldn’t get money that easily, they should work and receive money in the form of the result of their diligence. So, the relief programs as CCC, WPA, and FDR were aiming to fight the Depression and help unemployed Americans who were suffering, thus, to think of themselves as respectable and useful citizens 

The Civil War and Civil War Memory in Modern America

In recent years, the Civil War Era and its legacies have once again emerged as contentious topics in the United States. From the Confederate flags incorporated into the flags of several southern states, to monuments honoring famous generals or anonymous soldiers, to battlefields and other historic sites, memories of the Civil War are all around us, whether we are aware of them or not. As cities, states, universities, and other municipalities and institutions have removed or made alterations to a number of historic sites and symbols—sometimes in response to calls by historians or racial justice advocates—they have often faced a backlash from those who view these sites and symbols as part of their “heritage,” or see removing them as an attempt to erase our history.

As historians have pointed out, however, one of the problems with the “destroying history” argument is that most of the nation’s Civil War monuments and memorials were not created during, or even near the time of the war itself, but years or decades later. As the chart below shows, the vast majority of monuments to the Confederacy, as well as schools named for Confederate figures, were created in the first two decades of the 20th century (there was another spike in the mid-1960s, which coincided with the centennial of the war but also with the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement). The memorialization of the war during this period was strongly influenced by the mythology of the “Lost Cause,” which argued that the war had not really been fought over slavery, but was a heroic but doomed effort on the part of the South to free itself from the domination and “tyranny” of the North. Promoted by defeated Confederates like former president and vice-president Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, in popular early films like Birth of a Nation, and by some historians, the “Lost Cause” gained widespread acceptance in both North and South in the post-Reconstruction period as a means of reconstituting the nation and putting the divisive war years in the past. By the mid 20th century, the “Lost Cause” mythology was widely reiterated in school curricula and textbooks.

Source: Southern Poverty Law Center

More disturbingly, perhaps, Confederate flags and other symbols of the “Lost Cause” have long been adopted by segregationists and white supremacists, neo-Confederates, anti-government and pro-gun activists, and other groups on the political right. Meanwhile, Civil War era monuments and memorials have been staging grounds for heated, sometimes violent political conflicts. For the last several years, on July 4th, the Gettysburg National Memorial has become the site of demonstrators, often heavily armed, protesting perceived threats from Antifa and other left-wing groups. The ostensible purpose of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, which aimed to bring together white supremacists, militia groups, and figures associated with the “alt right” was to defend a Confederate monument in a public park that the city council had recently voted to remove. Heather Heyer, a young counter-demonstrator, was killed by a man belonging to a neo-Nazi organization. Confederate flags were in abundant display both in Charlottesville and at the attempted insurrection at the Capitol building on Jan. 6th, 2021.

Historians have responded to these controversies in a number of ways. Eric Foner has called for monuments to be removed selectively, with new monuments erected to lesser-known Black figures like John M. Langston; while James Oakes has suggested that Confederate monuments be relegated to a specific site or museum, as the Russian government did with statues of Soviet leaders after the fall of the Soviet Union. On occasion, protesters have taken matters into their own hands, destroying the statues of a Confederate soldier on the grounds of the University of North Carolina and a notorious slave trader in Bristol, England. More recently, Scott Hancock, Gregory Downs, Kate Masur, and Hillary Green led a nationwide effort to challenge the narratives at Civil War sites with “more history,” calling for a “day of action” in which historians and others would intervene at Civil War sites with signs and other creative efforts aimed at offering more historically grounded interpretations (Downs and Masur were also instrumental in realizing the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park in Beaufort, SC, the first national park site dedicated to the history of Reconstruction).

Do these efforts go far enough in challenging the false narratives of the Civil War Era that seem to be fueling a resurgence of white nationalism? Should more monuments be removed, despite the potential for backlash by certain groups? If so, who should get to decide? Whose history is “our” history, anyway?



blog post 4 – Rauchway Reflation and Relief

In chapter four of Rauchway’s “Reflation and Relief” text, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made many changes during the time period of what is known as the Great Depression. In summary, “From the time of their initial implementation in 1933 to the mobilization for war production in 1940, with the sole exception of the recession of 1937–38, the American economy grew at averaged rates of around 8 to 10 percent a year. Likewise, unemployment fell dramatically from its unconscionable 1932 peak” (page 1). This sets the tone as to how much of an impact Roosevelt had on the economy as a whole. Roosevelt began with the idea of a New Deal, which sought out to fix any crises in the present and prevent any in the future; it ultimately allowed Roosevelt to offer a new start with this new deal.

However, with this New Deal also came doubt. Many believed that the banking system caused a crash. There were talks about manipulation of both money and banking, destroying the financial and economic aspects of society. Thus, this New Deal was a saving grace that brought skepticism amongst the people. Although the New Deal possessed a few negatives, it also had much more value to it. For example, with this new deal, young unemployed men were easy to detect in order to aid them. The New Deal truly represents the title of “Reflation and Relief” as it helped to bring the society out of its economic depression. It also lifted the attitudes of the people. “Americans of the 1930s knew that work relief cost more than direct relief. Simply paying money to the poor was cheaper than setting up a bureaucracy to plan projects to employ the poor. But pride and their morality led them to prefer the costlier course, which allowed desperate Americans the dignity of meaningful work” (page 7). In other words, rather than simply receiving money from the government, the people were motivated and determined to work hard and hold down a job. This is important because when comparing this to the present day, many people are so quick to receive “free money” from the government. With many people losing their jobs because of covid, the majority resorted to continuously receiving unemployment checks and benefits, even when there were new job opportunities available to them. This change of attitude over time demonstrates how much the characteristics of people and society as a whole has changed.

Blog Post #4

Rauchway’s claim in “Reflation and Relief” is that the New Deal would have succeeded if it had been the only solution for the Great Depression. The New Deal was created by Franklin D Roosevelt and included a number of government institutions such as the NRA, CCC, and etc. FDR did not believe in sending direct cash handouts, so the New Deal primarily consisted of job relief programs. This is because he did not prefer  “allowing Americans to rely directly on the federal government for assistance programs,” (Rauchway 7). FDR was a strong supporter of government programs like the CCC. Young males between the ages of 18 and 35 were supposed to be employed by the CCC. Due to their lack of work experience, young men during the Great Depression had a tough time finding work. Most firms did not employ unskilled workers, and young men were left jobless. To join the CCC all you had to be was healthy, American citizen, young(18-35), singel, and unemployed. Those who joined the program had a list of jobs and it was to “preserve the nation’s crops and forests. Floods and forest fires needed preventing and fighting; pests required eradication; roads and bridges, fences and firebreaks all wanted building,”(Rauchway 5). Unlike the other New Deal initiatives, the CCC was unfazed from criticism since it was justified in giving job experience to young men as it was deemed “worthy of the government’s resources,” (Rauchway ) .

Other New Deal programs that were criticized included the CWA and the PWA. The Public Works Administration (PWA) as an example barely made a dent in unemployment statistics even though it had a budget of $3.3 billion. The Civil Works Administration (CWA) was created to supply laborers with jobs such as fixing city halls, public roads, and docks, and it employed nearly 4 million Americans. This  made Roosevelt anxious since these programs were supposed to be temporary relief programs, but it encouraged Americans to rely on government handouts. As a result FDR disbanded the program.

Although many of the New Deal’s relief initiatives were criticized, as Rauchman points out, they did bring in several changes aimed at preventing another recession. FDR instituted significant reforms, such as the Banking Act of 1933, which gave the Federal Reserve more power to oversee banking. Roosevelt also started “rescuing banks” by stating that all “banks must stop all gold transactions, thus shutting them down,” and he asked Congress to ratify his action. On March 9, Congress compiled with the Emergency Banking Act, which affirmed Roosevelt’s actions and appointed a receiver with the power to reorganize banks if necessary,” (Rauchman 1). Banks have reorganized and begun to reopen as a result of this and his other efforts.


“The Revolution of 1860” by James McPherson

In the book “The Revolution of 1860by James McPherson, wrote about different types of abolitionists, comparing and contrasting them for believing in the end of slavery and in freedom. John Brown is willing to sacrifice his life for slaves. Willing to fight for their freedom, putting his time to think about plans to make this work. Even though it didn’t work as he planned, there were many people on his side. Frederick Douglass was one of the people who refused to participate in this Revolution. Although, John Brown was waiting for him to join he refused thinking it was a suicidal plan “never get out alive” (205). Not wanting to help them get their freedom, excepting the law and injustices. “Is predestined, as it began in blood, so to end,”(204). John Brown was willing to spend his valuable time and money, travel to the east, gain money for this event. He tries so hard to gain supporters but ended up gaining fewer people than he needed, counting 11 white people that were part of this secret group, John Brown was selected as the new commander in chief. But after all of this, he didn’t back off on his plan. Most white people or even most abolitionists are not willing to go this far for a “mere” slave. This event also made me realize that after all of the sacrifices people did nothing hasn’t changed, still, now there are problems with colored people. The only difference there is they have a little more freedom, but still, the government as as if they care but treats them as nothing. Kill innocent people, arresting them for “feeling” they are treating them, using their powers to shut us down. It’s like history repeats itself again, but in different ways to not let the black people have their freedom.

Blog post #3

Eric Foner’s “The Making of Radical Reconstruction” talks about the ever-expanding influence of the radical republican and reconstruction policies. Reconstruction is a period in American history from 1866-1877 after the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished. The focus of reconstruction was the reuniting of the South and North, finding compromises with citizens in the South and discussing the freed slaves status of citizenship and how it would compare to whites. In this reading Foner discusses reconstruction theory which is that white men in the south were far more concerned with salvaging as much of the past way of living, in the hopes bringing it into or recreating in the new type of civilization that the northern radical republicans. And although they never fully got everything back to the way it used to be they did everything in their power to slow it down. One of their biggest fears was the passing of the 14th amendment which was suppose to give equal rights to all citizens and give them the ability to vote. But even after the passing of the law African-Americans were still not allowed to vote. They did not like this law because they did not hand over any power to colored people who could then make even more change. I feel like this kind of stuff stills goes on to a lesser degree in our modern day. Politicians are still finding ways to keep African-Americans at a disadvantage in a more discreet way.