The 1950s were a crucial period in world history. In spite of the fact that World War II had already ended, the turbulence and conflicts in international political relations, as well as the domestic policy within the US, still caused numerous troubles to the extent that the events that had occurred during this period practically shaped the future of the US and the entire world. In fact, it should be said that the 1950s were the years of important changes on both national and international levels, and these changes and new trends were not always positive. In stark contrast, some of the trends typical to the 1950s truly threatened to the democratic development of the US and the rest of the world. On the other hand, the 1950s became an extremely important point in the history of the Civil Rights movements in the US as well as in the entire world.
First of all, it should be said that after the end of the World War II which was followed by the Cold War that began between democratic countries headed by the US and the Soviet bloc led by the USSR, the democratic world, including the US, was extremely disturbed about the so-called communist threat. In fact, the threat of the expansion of communism was perceived as a new threat, which could be compared to the spread of fascism, i.e., it was the major threat to democracy and traditional American lifestyle. As a result, McCarthyism grew in power in the US. As a result, many people who were suspected to be “red” were severely oppressed, and many of them were forced to leave the country, such as Charlie Chaplin (Jameson, 1998). Obviously, McCarthyism produced a profound impact on American society, but it was rather a lesson to Americans, which taught them what they should not do in their domestic and international politics to efficiently preserve their fundamental values and develop a democratic society.
In fact, McCarthyism faced strong opposition from the part of American society that after the end of World War II had nothing to fear. People grew conscious of their power and their rights they could protect. At the same time, there appeared such movements as dynamic conservatism, which attempted to preserve the basic values and traditions of American society but on the other hand, dynamic conservatism was ready to accept innovations and implement essential reforms as long as they did not harm historical traditions of American society (Norton, 1999).
On the international level, the tension between the US and the USSR continued to grow, but it was obvious that both countries, as well as the world at large, could hardly bear the new World War. In such a situation, it was quite natural that countries attempted to launch the politics of consensus looking for alternative solutions to the existing problems between the superpowers. However, these efforts failed since the tension between the superpowers only grew worldwide. As a result, the USSR amply supported communist movements while the US attempted to find new allies in different parts of the world and stop the spread of communism by all possible means. Eventually, this led to the involvement of the US in military conflict worldwide, especially in South-East Asia, namely in Korea in the 1950s.
Such politics of consensus was extrapolated on the level of domestic policy and referred to the racial policy within the US. The major point of this policy was to create conditions for co-existence of representatives of different races when the interests of each race are not oppressed. In fact, it this ideology implied that different races could exist within a society without any interaction and conflicts, while the efforts to make them closer to each other and develop interracial relations were, in practice, few.
However, the development of the civil rights movement in the 1950s contributed considerably to the change of American society. In fact, the civil rights movement in the 1950s was basically related to the movements of African-Americans for their rights many of which were inspired by Martin L. King, the major ideologue and promoter of the idea of interracial interaction and peaceful co-existence of white and African-Americans based on equality of rights and opportunities for all people regardless their race (Watson 2001).
Finally, it was not only political but socio-economic life of Americans that had changed dramatically during the 1950s. In fact, it was the period of Eisenhower presidency, when the shift to the consumerist society was made, and consumerism eventually became the major ideology replacing traditional moral and ethical values.
Thus, the 1950s were a crucial period of substantial changes that shaped the modern image of the US and life of millions of Americans.
Jameson, T. (1998). Post-World War I Recession. New York: New Publishers.
Norton, A. (1999). A People and a Nation. New York: Touchstone.
Watson, D. (2001). The US after World War II. New York: Touchstone.
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