What were the elements of American conformity in the 1950s and what were the challenges to Mainstream Conformity?
Good answer above, and you might also include the ideas of the American Dream. The generation that had survived the Great Depression and World War II was quite content and focused on the idea of buying a house, starting a family and working hard the rest of their lives. Their children were not always as happy to do this. The reaction of the Baby Boom generation against their parents ideals and values was much of the counterculture of the 1960s we hear so much about.
There was a great deal of fear of the Soviet Union and communism in that decade. We had a nuclear arms race, the beginning of the space race with Sputnik, and expanding communism around the globe. Americans reacted harshly against people who dared to question that hyperpatriotism, and they did so in an environment of the anti-communist witch hunts of the McCarthy Era.
You might also check out The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson, a clever novel against conformity in the '50s.
I am not quite sure what you mean by the elements of this conformity and I suspect your teacher/text has specific answers you are supposed to come up with. That said...
Conformity in the US during this time came about in part because of the following factors:
- The need to get ahead in big companies. Salaried employees had to act in specific ways so their bosses would think they were good company men who had the potential to climb the corporate ladder.
- The need to not appear communist. During the McCarthy Era, being like everyone else was good protection from charges of being communist.
The major challenges to this conformity included:
- The Beatniks
- Elvis Presley and rock n' roll
- Black protests that started late in the decade
- Some amount of women's activism -- Betty Friedan