Friday, March 25, 2005

The real deal with the 1950s

I think the most recent comments under ther original 1950s posting nailed it: there was perhaps a little less debauchery going on in the 1950s, and everyone was quiet about it. Now, with our increased freedom and education, there is more, and not only that, but we're all talking about it as well.

I would compare the 1950s and its morals to the Prohibition era.


At 1:51 PM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...

As for Charles’s claim that the morality of the 1950s was similar to the morality of the Prohibition Era, I would object strenuously. Whether or not you think it makes sense (and I actually think it does, given the context), the public representation of moral ideals seem to have more closely matched the private moral actions and beliefs in the 1950s than it has at other times by available indicators. The 1920s was a time in which an extremely small, but vocal minority coerced other white Protestants to get on their band wagon, mostly by throwing Bible’s at them and deriding blacks and Roman Catholics. Then, after Prohibition was passed, everybody went on drinking alcohol. Public representations of moral ideals in the 1920s were very different than the private moral actions and beliefs of most Americans, particularly elites, because it was insignificant and unimportant to your (perceived) standing in the community or the (perceived) safety of your nation. The perceived need to created a unified American face that stood in contrast to the seemingly unified Soviet face (and, implicitly, standing for everything that the politicians accused Communists of hating) and the fear/patriotism/pride that went with that, really did mold people’s individual habits to public representations to a higher degree than during other eras because it mattered (or so they thought).

At 2:30 PM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

I completely disagree with you, and think that my analogy holds. In the 1950s the public representation of moral ideals just did not closely match the private moral actions and beliefs, and to make my case I suppose I am going to have to start providing specifics. If you read Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Gregory Corso, you find out that there is a subculture of drugs and free love that did not start getting attention until the 1960s, when all of the sudden everyone was shocked by it. Or, you can read about the atrocities committed on both sides during the Korean war. Or, you can read about the way prostitution was an accepted, albeit hushed up, feature of the landscape, and rampant in the west. If you are going to make the case that public moral ideals were congruent with private moral actions, I am going to need to see some of both, and up until now I can't. Prohibition was not a merely small, vocal minority--I believe over half of US states had their own temperance laws before the passage of the 18th amendment, and several were not repealed until the 1960s. While alcohol consumption was reduced (or so I've read) by 10-50% (depending on whom you ask), this is a paradigm case of public actions NOT matching private conduct.


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