American Culture in the 1920s (Twentieth-Century American by Susan Currell

By Susan Currell

Within the decade following the tip of worldwide warfare I, the USA rose to its present seat because the major global superpower matched by way of an rising cultural dominance that might come to represent the second one half the 20 th century. American tradition within the Twenties is a fascinating account of the key cultural and highbrow traits that have been pivotal to the decade's characterization as "the jazz age." keeping off superficial representations of the period because the "roaring twenties" affected by a "lost generation," the quantity presents a whole portrait that incorporates chapters on literature, song and function, movie and radio, visible artwork and layout, and the extraordinary upward thrust of relaxation and intake.

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The Scopes Trial, 1925 The Scopes ‘Monkey Trial’ became the stage on which these key conflicts were played out in the public arena. The trial illustrated the irreconcilable tension that had emerged between science and religion, modernity and tradition, the urban and the rural, ‘wets’ and ‘drys’, and the intellectual liberal versus the conservative fundamentalist. At the time it gave a public platform to ideas and anxieties about modernity that were seething in the intellectual undercurrents of the 1920s.

While Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921) had shown that individual psychology was affected by a ‘herd instinct’ that was ‘contagious’ in a crowd, in The Future of an Illusion (1927) Freud asserted that religious belief was ‘a store of ideas . . 59 Yet while Freud revealed the illusion, he also demonstrated how it had been essential in the development and survival of civilisation thus far – without religion, this implied, civilisation would struggle to function. The growth and popularisation of scientific thought, instrumentalism, pragmatism and materialism all appeared on the surface to divide American society between Christians and those who believed in something else.

Dewey’s ideas undercut the pessimism of the 1920s by arguing that democracy in mass society was not only possible but likely, with the rapid increase of mass communication and education. His writings indicated that mass society was not inherently in decay. Despite this, Dewey’s ideas did not offer the stability of belief that many needed. To Dewey ‘truth’ was relative, mutable and based upon untested outcomes; for him it was ‘the quest for certainty’ that harmed society and hampered social progress.

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