Following the end of World War II, it was widely reported by the media that Jewish refugees found lives filled with opportunity and happiness in America. However, for most of the 140,000 Jewish Displaced Persons (DPs) who immigrated to the United States from Europe in the years between 1946 and 1954, it was a much more complicated story.
Case Closed challenges the prevailing optimistic perception of the lives of Holocaust survivors in postwar America by scrutinizing their first years through the eyes of those who lived it. The facts brought forth in this book are supported by case files recorded by Jewish social service workers, letters and minutes from agency meetings, oral testimonies, and much more.
Cohen explores how the Truman Directive allowed the American Jewish community to handle the financial and legal responsibility for survivors, and shows what assistance the community offered the refugees and what help was not available. She investigates the particularly difficult issues that orphan children and Orthodox Jews faced, and examines the subtleties of the resettlement process in New York and other locales. Cohen uncovers the truth of survivors' early years in America and reveals the complexity of their lives as "New Americans."
After the turmoil of the Great Depression and World War II, Americans looked to the nation’s more distant past for lessons to inform its uncertain future. By applying recent and emerging techniques in mass communication—including radio and television programs and commercial book clubs—American elites working in media, commerce, and government used history to confer authority on their respective messages.
With insight and wit, Erik Christiansen uncovers in Channeling the Past the ways that powerful corporations rewrote history to strengthen the postwar corporate state, while progressives, communists, and other leftists vied to make their own versions of the past more popular. Christiansen looks closely at several notable initiatives—CBS’s flashback You Are There program; the Smithsonian Museum of American History, constructed in the late 1950s; the Cavalcade of America program sponsored by the Du Pont Company; the History Book Club; and the Freedom Train, a museum on rails that traveled the country from 1947 to 1949 exhibiting historic documents and flags, including original copies of the U.S. Constitution and the Magna Carta.
It is often said that history is written by the victors, but Christiansen offers a more nuanced perspective: history is constantly remade to suit the objectives of those with the resources to do it. He provides dramatic evidence of sophisticated calculations that influenced both public opinion and historical memory, and shows that Americans’ relationships with the past changed as a result.
The Culture of Spontaneity is the first comprehensive history of the postwar avant-garde, integrating such diverse moments in American culture as abstract expressionism, bebop jazz, gestalt therapy, Black Mountain College, Jungian psychology, beat poetry, experimental dance, Zen Buddhism, Alfred North Whitehead's cosmology, and the antinuclear movement. Daniel Belgrad shows how a startling variety of artistic movements actually had one unifying theme: spontaneous improvisation.
"A compelling narrative, putting living flesh on shorthand intuitions that connect North Beach to Black Mountain College, Fenollosa to Pollock, Jackson Lears's No Place of Grace to Todd Gitlin's The Sixties."—Joel Smith, Boston Review
"An invaluable introduction to postwar modernism across the arts."—Thomas Augst, Boston Book Review
"Belgrad's extensive probing of the artists and movements with their profound sociological roots is timely as well as comprehensive....A major contribution for serious scholars."—Choice
Farewell to Prosperity is a provocative, in-depth study of the Liberal and Conservative forces that fought each other to shape American political culture and character during the nation’s most prosperous years. The tome’s central theme is the bitter struggle to fashion post–World War II society between a historic Protestant Ethic that equated free-market economics and money-making with Godliness and a new, secular Liberal temperament that emerged from the twin ordeals of depression and world war to stress social justice and security.
Liberal policies and programs after 1945 proved key to the creation of mass affluence while encouraging disadvantaged racial, ethnic, and social groups to seek equal access to power. But liberalism proved a zero-sum game to millions of others who felt their sense of place and self progressively unhinged. Where it did not overturn traditional social relationships and assumptions, liberalism threatened and, in the late sixties and early seventies, fostered new forces of expression at radical odds with the mindset and customs that had previously defined the nation without much question.
When the forces of liberalism overreached, the Protestant Ethic and its millions of estranged religious and economic proponents staged a massive comeback under the aegis of Ronald Reagan and a revived Republican Party. The financial hubris, miscalculations, and follies that followed ultimately created a conservative overreach from which the nation is still recovering. Post–World War II America was thus marked by what writer Salman Rushdie labeled in another context “thin-skinned years of rage-defined identity politics.” This “politics” and its meaning form the core of the narrative.
Farewell to Prosperity is no partisan screed enlisting recent history to support one side or another. Although absurdity abounds, it knows no home, affecting Conservative and Liberal actors and thinkers alike.
In the Name of National Security exposes the ways in which the films of Alfred Hitchcock, in conjunction with liberal intellectuals and political figures of the 1950s, fostered homophobia so as to politicize issues of gender in the United States. As Corber shows, throughout the 1950s a cast of mind known as the Cold War consensus prevailed in the United States. Promoted by Cold War liberals--that is, liberals who wanted to perserve the legacies of the New Deal but also wished to separate liberalism from a Communist-dominated cultural politics--this consensus was grounded in the perceived threat that Communists, lesbians, and homosexuals posed to national security. Through an analysis of the films of Alfred Hitchcock, combined with new research on the historical context in which these films were produced, Corber shows how Cold War liberals tried to contain the increasing heterogeneity of American society by linking questions of gender and sexual identity directly to issues of national security, a strategic move that the films of Hitchcock both legitimated and at times undermined. Drawing on psychoanalytic and Marxist theory, Corber looks at such films as Rear Window, Strangers on a Train, and Psycho to show how Hitchcock manipulated viewers' attachments and identifications to foster and reinforce the relationship between homophobia and national security issues. A revisionary account of Hitchcock's major works, In the Name of National Security is also of great interest for what it reveals about the construction of political "reality" in American history.
In The Feminine Mystique, Jewish-raised Betty Friedan struck out against a postwar American culture that pressured women to play the role of subservient housewives. However, Friedan never acknowledged that many American women refused to retreat from public life during these years. Now, A Jewish Feminine Mystique? examines how Jewish women sought opportunities and created images that defied the stereotypes and prescriptive ideology of the "feminine mystique."
As workers with or without pay, social justice activists, community builders, entertainers, and businesswomen, most Jewish women championed responsibilities outside their homes. Jewishness played a role in shaping their choices, shattering Friedan's assumptions about how middle-class women lived in the postwar years. Focusing on ordinary Jewish women as well as prominent figures such as Judy Holliday, Jennie Grossinger, and Herman Wouk's fictional Marjorie Morningstar, leading scholars explore the wide canvas upon which American Jewish women made their mark after the Second World War.
Between 1948 and 1955, nearly two-thirds of all American families bought a television set—and a revolution in social life and popular culture was launched.
In this fascinating book, Lynn Spigel chronicles the enormous impact of television in the formative years of the new medium: how, over the course of a single decade, television became an intimate part of everyday life. What did Americans expect from it? What effects did the new daily ritual of watching television have on children? Was television welcomed as an unprecedented "window on the world," or as a "one-eyed monster" that would disrupt households and corrupt children?
Drawing on an ambitious array of unconventional sources, from sitcom scripts to articles and advertisements in women's magazines, Spigel offers the fullest available account of the popular response to television in the postwar years. She chronicles the role of television as a focus for evolving debates on issues ranging from the ideal of the perfect family and changes in women's role within the household to new uses of domestic space. The arrival of television did more than turn the living room into a private theater: it offered a national stage on which to play out and resolve conflicts about the way Americans should live.
Spigel chronicles this lively and contentious debate as it took place in the popular media. Of particular interest is her treatment of the way in which the phenomenon of television itself was constantly deliberated—from how programs should be watched to where the set was placed to whether Mom, Dad, or kids should control the dial.
Make Room for TV combines a powerful analysis of the growth of electronic culture with a nuanced social history of family life in postwar America, offering a provocative glimpse of the way television became the mirror of so many of America's hopes and fears and dreams.
Despite the pundits who have written its epitaph and the latter-day refugees who have fled its confines for the half-acre suburban estate, the city neighborhood has endured as an idea central to American culture. In A Nation of Neighborhoods, Benjamin Looker presents us with the city neighborhood as both an endless problem and a possibility.
Looker investigates the cultural, social, and political complexities of the idea of “neighborhood” in postwar America and how Americans grappled with vast changes in their urban spaces from World War II to the Reagan era. In the face of urban decline, competing visions of the city neighborhood’s significance and purpose became proxies for broader debates over the meaning and limits of American democracy. By studying the way these contests unfolded across a startling variety of genres—Broadway shows, radio plays, urban ethnographies, real estate documents, and even children’s programming—Looker shows that the neighborhood ideal has functioned as a central symbolic site for advancing and debating theories about American national identity and democratic practice.
In a vibrant and passionate exploration of the twentieth-century civil rights and black power eras in American history, Martin uses cultural politics as a lens through which to understand the African-American freedom struggle. In the transformative postwar period, the intersection between culture and politics became increasingly central to the African-American fight for equality. In freedom songs, in the exuberance of an Aretha Franklin concert, in Faith Ringgold's exploration of race and sexuality, the personal and social became the political.
Cool. It was a new word and a new way to be, and in a single generation, it became the supreme compliment of American culture. The Origins of Cool in Postwar America uncovers the hidden history of this concept and its new set of codes that came to define a global attitude and style. As Joel Dinerstein reveals in this dynamic book, cool began as a stylish defiance of racism, a challenge to suppressed sexuality, a philosophy of individual rebellion, and a youthful search for social change.
Through eye-opening portraits of iconic figures, Dinerstein illuminates the cultural connections and artistic innovations among Lester Young, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Jack Kerouac, Albert Camus, Marlon Brando, and James Dean, among others. We eavesdrop on conversations among Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Miles Davis, and on a forgotten debate between Lorraine Hansberry and Norman Mailer over the "white Negro" and black cool. We come to understand how the cool worlds of Beat writers and Method actors emerged from the intersections of film noir, jazz, and existentialism. Out of this mix, Dinerstein sketches nuanced definitions of cool that unite concepts from African-American and Euro-American culture: the stylish stoicism of the ethical rebel loner; the relaxed intensity of the improvising jazz musician; the effortless, physical grace of the Method actor. To be cool is not to be hip and to be hot is definitely not to be cool.
This is the first work to trace the history of cool during the Cold War by exploring the intersections of film noir, jazz, existential literature, Method acting, blues, and rock and roll. Dinerstein reveals that they came together to create something completely new—and that something is cool.
Literature departments are staffed by, and tend to be focused on turning out, “good” readers—attentive to nuance, aware of history, interested in literary texts as self-contained works. But the vast majority of readers are, to use Merve Emre’s tongue-in-cheek term, “bad” readers. They read fiction and poetry to be moved, distracted, instructed, improved, engaged as citizens. How should we think about those readers, and what should we make of the structures, well outside the academy, that generate them?
We should, Emre argues, think of such readers not as non-literary but as paraliterary—thriving outside the institutions we take as central to the literary world. She traces this phenomenon to the postwar period, when literature played a key role in the rise of American power. At the same time as American universities were producing good readers by the hundreds, many more thousands of bad readers were learning elsewhere to be disciplined public communicators, whether in diplomatic and ambassadorial missions, private and public cultural exchange programs, multinational corporations, or global activist groups. As we grapple with literature’s diminished role in the public sphere, Paraliterary suggests a new way to think about literature, its audience, and its potential, one that looks at the civic institutions that have long engaged readers ignored by the academy.
Marriage between blacks and whites is a longstanding and deeply ingrained taboo in American culture. On the eve of World War II, mixed-race marriage was illegal in most states. Yet, sixty years later, black-white marriage is no longer illegal or a divisive political issue, and the number of such couples and their mixed-race children has risen dramatically. Renee Romano explains how and why such marriages have gained acceptance, and what this tells us about race relations in contemporary America. The history of interracial marriage helps us understand the extent to which America has overcome its racist past, and how much further we must go to achieve meaningful racial equality.
Do you ever wonder why conservative pundits drop the word “faggot” or talk about killing and then Christianizing Muslims abroad? Do you wonder why the right’s spokespeople seem so confrontational, rude, and over-the-top recently? Does it seem strange that conservative books have such apocalyptic titles? Do you marvel at why conservative writers trumpeted the “rebel” qualities of George W. Bush just a few years back?
There is no doubt that the style of the political right today is tough, brash, and by many accounts, not very conservative sounding. After all, isn’t conservatism supposed to be about maintaining standards, upholding civility, and frowning upon rebellion? Historian Kevin Mattson explains the apparent contradictions of the party in this fresh examination of the postwar conservative mind. Examining a big cast of characters that includes William F. Buckley, Whittaker Chambers, Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, Kevin Phillips, David Brooks, and others, Mattson shows how right-wing intellectuals have always, but in different ways, played to the populist and rowdy tendencies in America’s political culture. He boldly compares the conservative intellectual movement to the radical utopians among the New Left of the 1960s and he explains how conservatism has ingested central features of American culture, including a distrust of sophistication and intellectualism and a love of popular culture, sensation, shock, and celebrity.
Both a work of history and political criticism, Rebels All! shows how the conservative mind made itself appealing, but also points to its endemic problems. Mattson’s conclusion outlines how a recast liberalism should respond to the conservative ascendancy that has marked our politics for the last thirty years.
After World War II, the United States underwent a massive cultural transformation that was vividly realized in the development and widespread use of new medical technologies. Plastic surgery, wonder drugs, artificial organs, and prosthetics inspired Americans to believe in a new age of modern medical miracles. The nationalistic pride that flourished in postwar society, meanwhile, encouraged many Americans to put tremendous faith in the power of medicine to rehabilitate and otherwise transform the lives and bodies of the disabled and those considered abnormal. Replaceable You revisits this heady era in American history to consider how these medical technologies and procedures were used to advance the politics of conformity during the 1950s.
We live in a time much like the postwar era. A time of arch political conservatism and vast social conformity. A time in which our nation’s leaders question and challenge the patriotism of those who oppose their policies. But before there was Jon Stewart, Al Franken, or Bill Maher, there were Mort Sahl, Stan Freberg, and Lenny Bruce—liberal satirists who, through their wry and scabrous comedic routines, waged war against the political ironies, contradictions, and hypocrisies of their times.
Revel with a Cause is their story. Stephen Kercher here provides the first comprehensive look at the satiric humor that flourished in the United States during the 1950s and early 1960s. Focusing on an impressive range of comedy—not just standup comedians of the day but also satirical publications like MAD magazine, improvisational theater groups such asSecond City, the motion picture Dr. Strangelove, and TV shows like That Was the Week That Was—Kercher reminds us that the postwar era saw varieties of comic expression that were more challenging and nonconformist than we commonly remember. His history of these comedic luminaries shows that for a sizeable audience of educated, middle-class Americans who shared such liberal views, the period’s satire was a crucial mode of cultural dissent. For such individuals, satire was a vehicle through which concerns over the suppression of civil liberties, Cold War foreign policies, blind social conformity, and our heated racial crisis could be productively addressed.
A vibrant and probing look at some of the most influential comedy of mid-twentieth-century America, Revel with a Cause belongs on the short list of essential books for anyone interested in the relationship between American politics and popular culture.
In Shooting from the Hip, Patricia Vettel-Becker reveals how photography helped to reconstruct and redefine the American idea of masculinity after the traumas of World War II. She argues that from 1945 to 1960 photography became increasingly concerned with restoring the male body and psyche, glorifying traditional masculinity - cowboys, boxers, athletes, military men - while treading carefully in an increasingly homophobic Cold War climate. Examining photojournalism as well as art and fashion photography, Shooting from the Hip finds in the crisp images of postwar photography five models of masculinity - the breadwinner, the action hero, the tough guy, the playboy, and the rebel. Vettel- Becker shows how the professionalization of photography itself was an attempt by male photographers to identify themselves as breadwinners. She goes on to analyze combat photography, exposing its valorization of action, subjugation of the enemy, and the use of the blurred shot to signify credibility. She links street photography - heir to Depression-era social documentary - with hard-boiled crime photography, exemplified in the works of William Klein and Weegee. And sexualized fashion models and their relationships with photographers, such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, fuel the ideal of the consummate playboy. Finally, Vettel-Becker demonstrates the authentic and sometimes rebellious nature of the male body as presented by sports photographers and others influenced by the Beat generation, including Robert Frank and Bruce Davidson. Taking a wide view of postwar photography, Vettel-Becker presents it as the triumph of a new form of modernist photography, centered on individual expression and the seductive image of the male body, and stimulated by a quest for the existential truth of masculinity.
Everyone knows that work in America is not what it used to be. Layoffs, outsourcing, contingent work, disappearing career ladders—these are the new workplace realities for an increasing number of people. But why? In The Temp Economy, Erin Hatton takes one of the best-known icons of the new economy—the temp industry—and finds that it is more than just a symbol of this degradation of work. The temp industry itself played an active role in this decline—and not just for temps. Industry leaders started by inventing the "Kelly Girl," exploiting 1950s gender stereotypes to justify low wages, minimal benefits, and chronic job insecurity. But they did not stop with Kelly Girls. From selling human"business machines" in the 1970s to "permatemps" in the 1990s, the temp industry relentlessly portrayed workers as profit-busting liabilities that hurt companies' bottom lines even in boom times. These campaigns not only legitimized the widespread use of temps, they also laid the cultural groundwork for a new corporate ethos of ruthless cost cutting and mass layoffs.
Succinct, highly readable, and drawn from a vast historical record of industry documents, The Temp Economy is a one-stop resource for anyone interested in the temp industry or the degradation of work in postwar America.
In the postwar era, American urban fiction is dominated by the imagery of containment. Across the fictional landscape, the city is divided into segregated zones, marked by the threat of inevitable violence, and set off from the safety of equally contained suburbs. Mean and dangerous, the city can only be navigated by a solitary expert, alienated and male. In Uncontained, Elizabeth A. Wheeler offers a critique of this familiar story-evident in the noir. narratives of James M. Cain and in work by Ellison, Roth, Salinger, Percy, Capote, and others —and challenges its link to the postwar city.
Discussing film, short stories, and novels from a cross-section of American cities, Wheeler integrates these stories of containment into a shared pattern and reads them across a broad spectrum of famous and forgotten works by men and women of various ethnic and literary traditions to reveal a larger vision of postwar America. Knowing that containment is never the entire story, that diversity or trauma always shows itself, she shows how the uncontained has shaped the historical moment. Aware that liberating counterstories do get told, she places them in dialogue with those of the alienated man, the war veteran, Beat hipster, noir detective, and ironic suburbanite — in historical context — and revives the idea of urban space as a place of openness, thereby challenging a literary containment of racial difference, gender, and sexuality. By reading Paule Marshall in tandem with Philip Roth, Wheeler explores the relationships between adjacent neighborhoods and reconnects separate literary and geographic areas. By bringing Ann Bannon's lesbian pulp fiction, Hubert Selby's cult novels, or the work of John Okada, Hisaye Yamamoto, Chester Himes, Gwendolyn Brooks's, Jo Sinclair, and many others to bear on more canonical texts, she offers a more complete understanding of this period of American fiction — one that points toward a city that is open and inclusive.
Uncontained suggests that while decline, division, and decay form a major part of the story of mid-century urban America, the postwar city also represents much of what is best about American life. Rather than reproducing the containment of culture, Wheeler places together the wildly disparate to show how we move beyond containment.
Unequal Partnerships explores urban development in American cities since World War II. Gregory D. Squires and other contributors examine what has long been a highly inequitable and destructive process of urban development. They look at the political and social assumptions and interests shaping redevelopment, the social and economic costs of development for the vast majority of urban residents, and alternative approaches emerging.The book begins with an overview of the ideological forces that have shaped urban economic development in the United States from the urban renewal days of the 1950s and 1960s through the celebration of public-private partnerships in the 1980s. Subsequent chapters examine specific cities in light of the consequences of development initiatives. These cities include those in declining rustbelt regions that are struggling with the consequences of deindustrialization (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and Milwaukee), as well as growing cities in the sunbelt (Louisville, New Orleans, Houston, and Sacramento). The book concludes with a discussion of promising policy alternatives.