The Evolution of the American Dream

My research paper is about the general American dependency on credit has resonated into normally accepted lifestyle. Post WWII America has been looked on in fascination and envy by the rest of the world mainly because the opportunity to rise from gravel to marble is entrenched into our social fabric. So if you find yourself on the outside looking in you see a world where the growth potential is unlimited, and popular sovereignty reign over socialism and glass ceilings. Of course once you become a member of the elite club that is America you begin to see the glaring deficiencies. The dream comes at an expense that only a “few” incur, in other words one man is only rich because another one is just that much poor. Unfortunately the American culture has become one in which a person is judged by the standards of a materialistic society. So what follows is a constant cycle of redefining needs and wants. I came across the article “Chasing the American Dream” by Larry Kaagan in which he explains the phenomenon that is the American Dream.

How have the dramatic economic developments of the past decade transformed the American ideals of opportunity and self-fulfillment?

The answer is quite complex, and it would take a vigorous historical analysis to map the changes in the American lifestyle but I might be able to give it to you the ten dollar version. At the beginning of the 19th century the American dream followed the path of something along the lines of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Aside from civil rights, Americans craved for upward mobility, equity, home ownership, and a comfortably lifestyle.  After the Great War the stock market offered Americans a get rich quick scheme, as millions of people invested their money not knowing what they were investing in which led to the catastrophe we now know as the Great Depression. At which point the American Dream was to just be able to survive. The point being is that the Dream is not written in stone, rather it is a manifestation that is subjectively transforming as the world changes.

It was post WWII when the dream began to truly evolve. There was a flurry of economic activity coupled with low unemployment which led to a prosperous economy. The extension of credit became easy to come by, and societal standards were on the rise. You were defined by the things that you owned. That’s why the need for a car turned into a couple of luxurious cars, a regular home to a mansion, things to a lot of things. That is also the era in which marketing strategies began to adapt to the information revolution.

And the Dream has been leveraged as a powerful marketing tool, to sell everything from cigarettes to prefab houses to political candidates. It resonates in marketing and advertising in ways that are so ingrained as to be barely detectable.

So the problem is how far is Corporate America willing to go to sell us a fantasy. The answer is the recession we find ourselves in. At the heart of this problem is the credit crisis, and even the financial system has really collapsed because unworthy borrowers are unable to handle their end of the bargain. But perhaps the problem is not the people who spend more than they have, but the dream merchants themselves. The people that have worked so hard to make sure that Average Joe is stuck in a credit battle for his entire life.

In an era controlled by the information revolution the American Dream is constantly evolving and is therefore contributing more and more to the deterioration of a reasonable lifestyle. It is inappropriate for us to faithfully believe that we can keep spending money we don’t have and at the end we’ll get away with it.  It is time to fight back against the people pushing on us a material lifestyle that comes at our expense.

The face of the American Dream at the beginning of the 21st century is decidedly different than that of fifty years ago. It’s a weathered face, with lines of experience. But no matter how it ages, it seems to retain one aspect through thick and thin. It still seems to have a smile on it.

It is our job as American to keep the real American Dream alive, and that dream is not a get rich quick scheme.

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