How did the Cold War shape the politics, economy, society, and culture of the US during the period between 1947 and 1960?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part of the effect of the Cold War was due to the growth of the military-industrial complex during World War II, and its continuing accumulation in response to worries about the Soviet Union's military prowess. This led to dramatic levels of technological innovation resulting in massive GDP growth.

Competition with the Soviet Union also led to unprecedented levels of investment in education, especially in math and science. The combination of returning veterans attending university under the GI Bill and new investments in STEM education responding to the "Sputnik moment" led to the United States developing a very highly educated workforce. The response to Sputnik also spawned the Space Race, leading to not only space exploration and technological innovation, but also to the growth of science fiction as a popular literary genre. Another subsequent effect from World War II was the entry of women into the workforce and higher education in increasing numbers.

Paranoia from the Cold War led to McCarthyism, a major assault on civil liberties. It also led to intervention in the politics of many other countries in an imperialistic effort to counter Soviet influence abroad. The growth of involvement in foreign wars and environmentally harmful industries led to the development of protest movements opposing foreign wars and demanding increased environmental regulation. 

Educated immigrants, fleeing first from Hitler and later from the Soviet Union, contributed to the cultural, intellectual, and scientific prowess of the United States. 

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Cold War had a huge impact on our country during the time period of 1947-1960 (and beyond.)  It impacted us economically, politically, socially, and culturally.

The Cold War had a big impact on our politics.  There were many thoughts on how to deal with the Communist threat. President Truman followed the policy of Containment. Our goal was to keep Communism from expanding.  Thus, we helped countries trying to fight the spread of Communism.  Eisenhower believed in the concepts of brinkmanship and massive retaliation.  These relied on a nuclear deterrent to stop the spread of Communism.

Our economy was impacted by the Cold War.  Our economy was very strong during this time period. We needed to have a strong economy to show other countries that they didn’t need to become Communist. We also spent a lot on having a strong military. This was good for the economy as jobs were created.

Our society and culture were also affected.  There was the Second Red Scare.  Americans were convinced there were Communists in our government, and a witch-hunt developed to find them.  This allowed Senator Joseph McCarthy to rise to power so quickly. We also developed an anti-Communist sentiment in our country.  Anything or anybody connected to Communism was viewed very negatively.

The Cold War had a tremendous impact on our country from 1947-1960 and beyond.

pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Between 1947 and 1960, the Cold War was the biggest issue in both domestic and international politics. This early stage of the Cold War led to the fall of the Democratic party under the leadership of Harry Truman because it was considered too far left. Americans voted for Republicans who made sure to promote free market values. It was not until 1960 that the Democrats would gain control of the White House again; in that year's election, John F. Kennedy won the White House by promising to close the missile gap between the United States and the Soviet Union.

This period was also known for the Second Red Scare led by Joe McCarthy, who promised to remove communists from the media and government. While many were prosecuted and their reputations tarnished, very few were accused of actual communist subversion.  

Domestically, defense contractors received very lucrative deals from the government to improve Americans weapons systems. The United States also developed the interstate system as a way to move munitions and troops quickly in case of a Soviet strike. The interstate, while not used for national defense, would be used by millions of vacationing families and would lead to the growth of suburbia.