In the 1950s, how did American society hold on to the promise of prosperity ideas at the same time when there was division?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is going to sound very divergent, but I would suggest that some level of thought is paid to the current series, Mad Men.  I cannot help but feel that some level of answer can be provided here.  In the end, the question becomes how the social order of the 1950s was able to assert a sense of faith in progress and advancement while there were seeds of social discontent being sown within this milieu.  A great exchange between Don Draper, lead character of the show, and his then- boss, Roger Sterling, reveals how the tension between social progressivism and entrenched political interests are evident:

When contemplating a new account, Draper asks his boss, Roger Sterling, played with perfect cynical pitch by John Slattery, “What do women want?”

“Who cares?” is his answer.

In this, one sees how American society of the 1950s was able to hold the promise and possibility of what can be while the obvious tension of fear and division were emerging. Those in the position of power simply held on to their sense of control and power, ensuring that no one else could have access and opportunity.  When it became evident that enfranchisement was becoming more realized, those whose interests could be challenged simply held on tighter to their power.  Yet, it is through this desire to hold power where the intensity of social change resonated in a louder sense.  This becomes the fundamental narrative of the 1950s, one in which the forces of change recognize through divergence and division that greater magnitude in articulation of need and demand for change must overwhelm those who refuse to "care."   In this, I believe lies the answer as to how a time where so much in way of prosperity and security was able to give way to the realities of social change and the demands of what could be as opposed to what is.

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