The short, but rich on events history of the United States of America made a deep impact on the modern American society. The country with only some three hundred years of official history is now the world’s leader in industry, finance and, what is more important, is a leader in standards of living. The American way of life which is discussed all over the world, sometimes criticized and admired has been always that particular criteria, which attracted immigrants to the USA from all over the world, making this country the land of opportunity and variety of options for self realization.
The existing social and cultural norms have been changing through years faster than in any other culture of world, but there were some that had preserved through years and that probably serve as the engine for eternal social progress in the society. These are norms and concepts of freedom and liberty that were stated in the Constitution and that have been always functioning, differentiating the USA from other countries.
These freedoms gave a huge space for personal realization and boosted the economics of the country making it one of the strongest in the world in some 130-150 year period. The development of business, trade, interaction of people from different countries who had different cultural background, values and beliefs as the result formed the prototype of American culture with its beliefs, values and norms.
Equal opportunities and freedoms reflected in the common American belief of hard work, persistence and confidence in one’s self.
These at the same time means independence from significant others (as relatives and parents) that doesn’t exist in most of eastern cultures. The believes that good education and personal features such as enterprising, commutative abilities and careful attitude towards work will guarantee better job, career promotion and professional growth also originated from the equality before the law and from the opportunities that are offered to individual.
At the same time another characteristic feature of American society is that it measures an individual by its status in the society, the position he holds, etc. The sense of property is also very developed in American culture, which is reflected in the desire nearly of every family to live in a house.
Besides these values and believes there are lots of others that were formed under the influence of dynamically changing world and all the challenges that the society faced in the last century. The ability to accept everything new (both in culture, technology) if it looks more practical and effective put American society in front of the rest of the world. Even though that modern art and cinema came to America from Europe, as well as automobile and other technical advances they got the massive spread first in the USA.
These beliefs made American society very dependant upon the mass culture, mass media, etc. Americans are among the few highly developed nations that widely use Internet and credit cards for purchasing products online, not talking about home electronics and automobiles. That’s why a lot of features of American culture are getting more and more universal and are accepted by other cultures.
The influence of popular culture in American society made its culture to experience the influence of consumerism which is reflect in eternal interest and pursuit for new goods and services that are offered. The influence of advertising industry, TV commercials and mass media, that broadcast the image of successful and happy American lifestyle, had resulted in mass desire of Americans to imitate that norms and lifestyle particularities.
The results of such social norms reflect in the desire of owning material items and goods and in self realization through this kind of ownership, that made personal and spiritual values to be secondary in the life of most Americans, making property owned and material goods being the standards of success in American culture.
It can be argued that by accepting materialist values and influence of consumerism the society may experience the cultural decline of its spiritual and personal values, that were valued in the past ( values of personal taste, individualism, etc.). But at the same time mass production and availability of goods and services had changed life of the whole society to better side, allowing people form different social groups to get desired services, making life more comfortable and luxurious, at the same time washing away class distinctions. Another characteristic of American popular culture is American dress, which is distinctive from others because of being casual.
American style of dress had been developing more informally than in Europe, and it’s development was mostly directed by the clothes that common people from the streets wear. Its priority was to make clothes more comfortable and appropriate for lifestyle, than to make them more fancy. Even so that the influence of European fashion had been always observed, American designers still pay a special attention to what people wear on the street, at school, as well as what they wear in mass media production. American informality in cloth style is a distinctive feature of America’s culture that is being accepted by other cultures as well now.
Dependence upon popular culture changes most of the social standards in some several decades.
America was the first country to experience sexual revolution, emancipation of woman, struggle for rights, etc. as a result the American society is more liberal in its belief than other western societies. Free expression of individual’s beliefs, appearance, outlook, etc. is more common in the USA than in another country and is taken by others as usual thing (every one has a right for free expression and privacy). These outlooks as well as the society that has diverse heritage and ethnical background made it relatively free from national and social stereotypes, which is not common for other cultures even European.
High economical advance and independence from other countries also made an impact on American culture. The superiority in economics, science, and technology made the perfect background for the development of nationalism and pseudo patriotism in the society.
As the result the foreigners perceive American culture as something individualized and separated form the rest of the world even so it has a direct impact on the world’s socialization and globalization processes. American culture has inherited a lot from the mass and popular culture and often it possess only these features. As a result few Americans have a concrete and logical knowledge about the rest of the world, other countries, cultures and things that don’t have a direct relationship to everyday life and that are of no particular meaning and value in everyday life. As the research shows
“Yet, 42% of American adults cannot locate Japan on a world map according to Garrison Keillor (NPR, 22 March 1997), and another survey revealed that nearly 15% couldn’t locate the United States (!). Very few Americans understand the degree to which corporations have taken over their lives.
But according to a poll taken by Time magazine, nearly 70% of them believe in the existence of angels, and another study found that 50% believe in the presence of UFOs and space aliens on earth. More than 30% believe that they have made contact with the dead.” ( from The American Terrain Today available on web: http://tel.occe.ou.edu/distance/hr5100/two.html)
The influence of the mass culture on the American society has another impacts. One of them is careful attitude towards the public opinion and the feeling of unity and cooperation. The opinion of significant others is very important for an individual as he indicates himself as a part of the society or a community.
These features are also reflected in good relations with coworkers, in neighborhood communities, churches, etc. Americans are more open and communicative than other nations, mostly because they change the place of living not for a one time during their lives, moving form one community to another or while young attend schools in different communities. These factors also make an impact on the society in general.
The preference of work in the team is developed from early years, and to be more particular form school. Team sports are more popular than those where the skills of an individual are of the main focus. Later the experiences and skills that an individual gains while working in the team will make him a favor in professional life.
In general American culture reflects the influence of technical progress, mass and popular culture, mass media on the society and is a vivid example of the dynamically changing culture of the modern world that has been influenced by different social, economical, historical factors.
Jones American Culture: Our Own
The Meaning and Significance of Stereotypes in Popular Culture Article <http://www.serve.com/shea/stereodf.htm>
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