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Culture of Consumption During the Eisenhower

Dwight David Eisenhower served as the 34th president of United States from 1953-1961. He ascended to presidency following a 1952 election on the promise of a return to normalcy, normalcy because this was the time just after the WWII. His presidency symbolized more than hope, it also symbolized ascendancy of US as a world power. The American economy was doing well; this was a result of increased consumer demand, employment was high, and more Americans were moving away from the cities and into mushrooming new suburban developments. Affluent consumption and freedom from the growing problems of the decaying inner cities seemed a possible fulfillment of the American dream (Cawelti 245). The involvement of US in the international arena through programs such as the Marshal plan which sought to redevelop Europe also complemented demand for industrial products.

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In 1930’s and 1940’s the American people firmly believed that there had been a rather large shift in income distribution. This was largely due to the welfare state programs in 1930’s and the extension of the income tax during WWII. Despite earlier concerns that redistribution would do little to address the wealth gap this shift played a huge part in increasing real per capita income (Hamilton 136). The effect of this shift was felt during Eisenhower regime and was characterized by increased consumption.

Consumption was also rampant during Eisenhower regime due to the mentality that emerged after WWII, during this time consumption was considered as an act of patriotism. It was said to allow the development of a classless society. The linking of mass consumption with political freedom was brought to the fore as a political tool during Eisenhower’s presidency as well as that of Richard Nixon and John Kennedy (McPherson 49). This was at the time American-style capitalism was considered a “classless” society in which the country’s populace had free access to a wide range of material goods.

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