Relationship for Cohen

          People everyday are consuming products that have been influenced by democracy, but most of these consumers have no idea just how long or in what way this has been going on in the United States. The relationship between the two has been a positive and negative on the country, but has ultimately brought much opportunity and stability to the nation. Lizabeth Cohen, in her book A Consumers’ Republic, has given the reader a clearer understanding of how consumption and democracy have developed and built a lasting relationship since 1932. Understanding how this relationship has been built and can be viewed, we shall take a look at a few different aspects of how democracy and consumption have been joined.

            The idea of consumption and democracy being involved with each other first can be a surprise. Although, it has been made much clearer how each affects the other, and this can be viewed as a net plus for the nation. With the growth that the United States has had since 1932, the expansion of homes, education, and even shopping areas, was a needed aspect for all cities. With the influx and growth of people and homes, the nation needed someone to look over all the developing needs that would arise. That is where democracy came in with the establishment of stricter taxes to help build up the areas. The property taxes that would be put into place in suburban areas would have an effect, “as property values and tax rates vary by community and put unequal amounts of revenue per capita at town’s disposal (pg. 232).”  However, the growth of the suburban towns did cause much segregation in class and race while the consumption of new products did help boost the economy. This was after the war, so many veterans coming home now had the GI Bill at their disposal. This brought much attention to job training, college, and home buying. This was all a democratic move that helped each veteran become a consumer, and even to this day it is still operating in the same manner. The battle between the two has taken on many different shapes in the last seventy years, with many policies in the beginning discriminating against gender and race.  It is, however, seen that many of those have been lifted over the years through the democratic process that the nation provides. In the eyes of many around the nation, and especially this student, it is believed that the net plus for the country does come in the strong relationship that comes from consumption and democracy.

            For Lizabeth Cohen, the relationship between consumption and democracy was a developing dependency on one another from 1932 to 2003. They both grew and developed based on the others needs. The government needed to assure it did not repeat its mistakes from the past, and the consumers needed the products to build the new life styles they desired. She demonstrates this clearly through many different parts of her book, but we are going to look into the GI Bill, suburbia, shopping malls, and the gender and race aspects. Through these four areas, the relationship of dependency will be shown in a clearer manner for all to understand.

            With the government trying to help out the country in 1944, they introduced the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, better known as the GI Bill of Rights. In the attempts to avoid the same economic problems that happened after WWI, this was a way for democracy to take control and spur the consumers. “It sought to jump-start the postwar economy by expanding purchasing power, by injecting new capital into existing institutions ranging from colleges to banks to the housing industry, and by creating higher-earning and home owning consumers who would make secure credit risks for future buying (pg. 137).” This was a way for democracy to take control and develop policies for the reconversion and shift from the war production economy. With the GI Bill, veterans would flood the colleges and training schools in the attempt to better educate themselves to make more money. The housing market would become a much sought after consumer product because they had loan programs especially set up for veterans to acquire a home at low interest rates and backed by the VA (pg. 141). Another luxury that the government had put into place for returning veterans through the GI Bill was that they could receive small business loans with ease. This was developing another consumer product for society, but it was developed in a democratic manner. Much of the GI Bill was a way for the government to get their hands on a consumer market that was returning from war and wanting to reestablish them in society. They had new goals and dreams in life after a time in combat, they wanted to share new things with their families, and this gave them the means to do such things.

            The development of new homes outside of the cities quickly became known as the suburbs, and these homes grew into a large consumer market. With the large amounts of construction, consumption of these homes started to divide the public and broke out what would become a larger class system. “New housing developments were particularly easy to peg at a particular consumer market through homes prices, lot sizes, and community amenities, giving new suburban areas instant socioeconomic, and therefore market, identities (pg. 202).” These new areas even became a power for democracy with local elections and taxes. The public would get to vote into the local office the candidate that they preferred, and those individuals would get to fight for the local property taxes and how they would be used. Consumption was prevalent in these suburban areas because it was becoming a mass consumption market, and through this the government was getting what it wanted in the nation recovering and prosperity (pg. 195). The suburban living fueled many other things in the view of consumption. Not only did the home- owners need to buy new goods for their home, but since they were now further from work, they would be purchasing automobiles. The availability that democracy gave to the consumers in the home loans also established debt on many levels. The government was building the economy that it wanted with the simple availability and direction of creating a buy-it-now society. Home loans and car loans flooded the suburban areas, and new things like credit cards added to a person’s debt.

            In the ever-growing populations around major cities, the citizens would need new places to shop. In the development of the shopping centers and shopping malls, consumption and democracy would take turns battling and benefiting from one another. These shopping centers would become the prime location for consumption and would even give the local area more ideal property values. “In other words, a town well enough off to attract a shopping center was rewarded with higher property values and a big boost to its property tax and sales tax revenues, resulting in improved local services and potentially lower tax rates for residents (pg. 266).” The population would easily be rewarded with property values, but democracy would also benefit with the taxes it would receive. With them being established in the center of towns, democracy would take hold and become the ideal place for many town activities such as campaign appearances by political candidates, and even community outreach for local charities (pg. 264). The new availability to products and the assortment of stores that would be available for consumption was an appealing aspect to many suburbanites. The shopping center life was not always sunshine, though, and the battle over “public place” and “private property” was soon brought to the forefront. In the 1960’s, the Supreme Court was hearing cases about the rights of free speech and private property due to protestors and picketers (pg. 274). This showed that democracy was stepping into the avenues of consumption locations. Everyone in society today lives by these types of shopping locations, but the way that they developed was a democratic and consumer dream.

            The battles for civil right between gender and race have played the biggest part in the relationship between consumption and democracy. During the war, the United States government called on the women and blacks to step up and keep the economy thriving. They wanted these people to put every last penny they had into consumption. The problem was when the men got home from war, the gender and race lines became more obvious. The white men would be the breadwinners in the household, and the blacks were almost completely left out. “The Consumer’s Republic developed a structure of taxation that rewarded the traditional household of male breadwinner father and homemaker mother, thereby making women financially dependent on men at a time when the transformations of depression and war might have encouraged alternatives (pg. 146).”  The democracy that went into this was that women had to depend on the men to get the loans or credit, because the establishments did not recognize the female’s money. Even the government’s GI Bill was leaving the blacks and women veterans out in the benefits that they had earned. In the search for homes, blacks thought they would have the same rights as the whites to secure the VA and FHA home loans. “Not only was it difficult for blacks to pass muster at lending agencies and to secure the lowest interest rates, but VA and FHA financing respected, even reinforced, a hierarchy of neighborhoods that “red-lined” areas where many blacks lived and hoped to buy, coloring them red on government maps to mark them as poor investments (pg. 170).” In the view of consumption, though, the economic stability of this nation depended on every living person regardless of his or her race, gender, or sex. Everyone depended on everyone, and even the shopping centers started to realize this. They would need every class to survive in a world that was run by money. “Over time, shopping centers moved beyond simply aiming at “middle-income groups” to become even more class stratified, with some like Bergen Mall marketing themselves to the lower-middle class, while others like Garden State Plaza went upscale to attract upper-middle-class consumers (pg. 288).” Society had to readjust itself so that it could survive, and the government began lifting the segregation markers to keep its afloat in the times when it was not so stable. It became more evident that gender and race do not matter when our nation all runs on green money.

            The United States since 1932 has made consumption a large part of the responsibility for the public, and democracy has overseen most aspects of this. They have built a relationship that is dependent on one another, and the nation has fought back at times for it to be done correctly. Through projects like the GI Bill, suburban development, shopping centers, and the gender and race discrimination, Lizabeth Cohen has shown that the consumer and the government play side by side. As a nation, it has not always been easy and, at times, things did not go correctly, but democracy and consumption have built this nation into what it is today.

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A Consumers’ Republic Part 1

In the book it is clear that the author shows that consumption played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement. The spending power that the African Americans had was powerful and could affect the white business. The African Americans held a lot of control and to keep the circulation and prosperity going in the black communities they would keep spending money in black owned business (Cohen, 42). With the price controls being watched so closely in the white areas, the watch on the black communities was almost none existent which brought more turmoil to the government when the black women started to organize and demand the same rights as other.

Even in the military the African Americans were segregated and could not get the same rights as the whites. They could not eat in the same restaurants, drink in the same bars, or even have the same base privileges as the whites. These men though would take advantage just like the rest of the military men, when it came to the benefits they would receive after the war. As seen in the clip from tonight, the blacks were trying to fight the whites for the same type of living and “American Dream” that was provided.

 Sit in and marches on Washington would begin and the civil rights that the blacks wanted they would receive. The African Americans had money just like the whites, and would fight to have the same price ceiling, rent control, and others. “African – American citizen consumers, the goal was as much to claim equal citizenship as to consume material goods and services (Cohen, 100). They didn’t want special treatment they just wanted the same rights as every other consumer that was trying to do their civil duty at the time.

Since the government and all of society kept putting out that consuming the goods that had been produced would keep the nation thrieving, the African Americans believed they should be treated the same. It was nice to see though that the women organizations did team up with the blacks to take on some of the challenges. This does show that a common goal was seen.

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Historians should be able to look at this video as see the reactions both negative and positive of a white population when a black family moves into the growing subdivisions in the post war era. The community of Levittown, PA had mixed feeling and showed many fears when the Myers family integrated into the 60,000 people population. These fears could be seen as common in the generations, but also statistically proved to be wrong. The investments that families were making into the “American Dream” at that time were shared not only by whites but also blacks. The middle class family wanted to have the economic opportunity to grow and give their children a better life. This can be seen as a test for historians to see the reactions and refer to the statistics that they talked about with the fears of economic loss, loss of status, violence, and inter marriage. If we could have shown what we know now to the people in Levittown then, do you think we could have changed some of the minds in the community? Maybe we could, but that was also a time when people went off how they were raised.

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American Dreams

In reading H.W. Brands book American Dreams, I found myself enjoying sections of the book and wanting to fall asleep in others. It was not a waste of time reading it as I did find many interesting fact that I did not know from the last 65 years of U.S. History. In the preface of the book Brand tries to describe some reasoning behind the title of the book as the nation dreamed of liberty, equality, and happiness. This is true of what the nation was wanting when it fought for its independence. He goes on to also state that the right of the individual dreamers was to design their own dreams. In my eyes I sure hope I get to create my own dreams and not be told what I was supposed to do for the rest of my life. I see Brand talking about our nation becoming the strongest and most stable of the entire world. In many sections he describes the races the nation became involved in like the creation of the atomic bomb, the space race, and even civil rights. As a nation I believe Brand describes the “American Dream” as being somewhat fulfilled, but it is still a work in progress. My problem with this book though is that Brand really does not describe the dream of the individual person in America. It would have been better titled “Governmental Dreams,” because that is what he focuses on. Major events like the Vietnam War are given little recognition, but he sure could go into detail about the evolving of the satellites to get up to the minute news coverage. Don’t get me wrong that up to the minute coverage of everything would change society forever, but we cannot lose focus on the fact that many of our nation’s young men stood up and fought a war for this country. H.W. Brand does like to focus on the presidents from the last 65 years though, and those men are great, but they are not the ones that we need to be looking at. American Dreams are exactly that of the individual American. We watched the video about the family going to Disney Land the year after it opened that was an American dream of that time. Family, happiness, and just living life was what that family cared about. I really don’t think that has changed too much in the last 65 years, and probably won’t in the next 65 years. Though the reasoning of the people probably changed away from that Disney Land high, and focusing on other things to share as a family. It is just the generations changing; it is a natural occurrence that will continue to change. I know from experience in my short life of 29 years that just having a family to share things with is what I dream about. Politicians have tried to control this nation and make the choices they believe are the best to make things better, well here in 2011 I don’t see much happiness as many are unemployed, losing houses, and having problems putting food on the table. Does Brand really focus on what the people are going through and what they are dreaming of or does he focus on what the government dreams are? I say he pushes the dreams of the government and minimizes the other things that make the “American Dream.”

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Music Then & Music Now

Today marked the 52nd Anniversary of a terrible plane crash that took the lives of three famous musicians in 1959. The deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were a tragic event that brought much grief for a generation that clung to the words of the musicians. I was around during the time of this event, but I remember growing up watching the movie La Bamba, and enjoying many of Ritchie Valens songs. Even going through high school hearing the song “American Pie,” this was put out to honor these three men and the impact that they had on society. Going around and talking to several people today that was around on that date actually had brought some fond memories in the eyes of a couple. They reflected back to favorite songs and even reactions the day it was on the cover of the newspaper in their areas. This actually made me think of the impact that music has had on my life and what artists I can say would bring the same reaction today. To be honest I can’t really think of many that have played such a vital role in society. Is that a generation thing or has music just become another part of society that is flooded? The music I believe used to be more pure and the words actually meant something to the people that were listening. So maybe when these men died on February 3, 1959 the music really did die as Don McLean says in his song.

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To All,

Welcome to my new blog!!!! Some may wonder why the name of this blog is “Marine 2 Student.” Well it is because in a life before I dedicated myself to the Marine Corps, but because of being wounded in combat I was retired. So in the aftermath of putting my life back together I followed the advice of a Commanding officer I had and returned to school. This is a new chapter of my life in the pursuit of completing Graduate school. Thank You all.


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