How does Lizabeth Cohen understand the relationship between consumption and democracy as it developed between approximately 1932 and 2003?  Do you think this is a net plus for the country or has it done more harm than good?  Explain.

Drive around most any American town, in any state, and one can see the same familiar sprawl of suburbanization – enclaves of neighborhoods with thematic street names that are similar in style, color themes, and size; dating from the 1940’s to modern construction.  Strip malls with a grocery store, hardware store, fitness center, coffee shop, restaurant, and perhaps even a bookstore that has managed to stay in business.  Acres of blacktopped parking areas surrounding massive shopping malls anchored by name brand stores such as Macy’s, Dillards, Sears, Zales, Victoria’s Secret, and multi-plex movie theaters.  All of these choices, too much to choose from, and massive commercialization and consumerism right at one’s finger tips.   Yet how often does the average citizen contemplate the meaning of all that is available for them to consume and the history behind this consumerism and democracy? Lizabeth Cohen’s book, A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America, guides the reader to understanding the economic, political, racial and social needs that drove the United States’ need for consumption in the name of democracy during the time frame of post World War II to 2003.

The country was going full-tilt with war time production, employment, and personal savings but with the conclusion of the war, the economy needed to be re-evaluated and decisions had to be made in order to keep the proverbial ball rolling, supposedly for the best-interest of the country and subsequently, for the people of the country.  This took on the form of pushing consumption by every day citizens in order for them to do their democratic duty for the benefit and well being of the United States and her citizens.

The influx of returning soldiers caused issues within society from the factories, businesses, and other venues that had hired women and minorities in record numbers as replacement workers for the departing warriors.  When these soldiers returned, the government took action to provide them with several key benefits that still impact our country today – the G.I. Bill, or the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944.  This legislation provided an opportunity to restart their lives by offering “unemployment pay while looking for a job, tuition and subsistence allowances for further education or training, and loans to purchase homes or farms or to start a business” (p. 137).  The main purpose was to avoid economic issues that had happened after World War I – high unemployment, political unrest, and economic disruption.  The passing of this Act created social and economic fallouts highlighted by the inequalities between veterans and non-veterans, female versus male veterans, and Caucasian versus African American veterans yet the Act also created a very new type of America – one in which its’ citizens would be much more upwardly mobile through education, home ownership, and the purchasing of consumer goods.