What were the key characteristics of American culture and society during the 1950s?
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The three most important characteristics of American society during this time were conformity, prosperity, and fear of communism.
This was early in the Cold War when fears of communism were at a peak. It was the time of McCarthyism where people’s rights were abridged because of the fear of communist subversion.
At the same time, this was a time of rising prosperity. The US was the only major industrial country that was left untouched by World War II (in terms of damage to the homeland). This helped the US enjoy total economic dominance that led to a rising standard of living. This rising wealth allowed American teens, for example, to indulge in a new teen culture that came to include rock and roll music and a passion for cars.
Finally, this is seen as the decade of conformity. The adults of the time had lived through the Depression and the war and wanted nothing more than to work hard and make a good life for themselves and their families.
While these characteristics do not tell the whole story of the decade, they capture most of what was important at the time.
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