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16.5: Conclusion

  • Page ID
    • Angela L Miller, Janet Catherine Berlo, Bryan J Wolf, and Jennifer L Roberts
    • Washington University in St. Louis, University of Rochester, Stanford University and Harvard University
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    The culture of the 1930s was, in Terry Cooney's words, a 'balancing act," a complex negotiation between past and future, premodern loyalties and modern aspirations.25 The Great Depression of the 1930s shaped the federal government's commitment to social welfare for the next half-century. The nation survived years of mass unemployment, poverty, and homelessness through the massive publicly funded morale-building experiments of the New Deal. In the face of rising fascism throughout the world, Americans reaffirmed a fundamental commitment to democracy built upon pluralism. The range of possible solutions to the challenges of mass society was spread across a wide spectrum, from the heirs of the Democratic Front in the labor movement, the arts, and public life to corporate engineers and their allies in design, advertising, and mass media. The dream of reengineering the world through manufacturing and industry persisted. After the World's Fair of 1939, the ardor for technological utopia would periodically revive, from the harnessing of atomic energy in the 1950s to the computer age. However, this utopian impulse to sidestep history and let technology solve all mankind's problems was persistently impeded by the psychic costs of modern life that technology itself generated. Much art of the subsequent decade turned away from epic fantasies of a perfect future, toward explorations of selfhood increasingly at odds with collective solutions.

    This page titled 16.5: Conclusion is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Angela L Miller, Janet Catherine Berlo, Bryan J Wolf, and Jennifer L Roberts.