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Changes in the Post-World War II United States, Dissertation – Discussion Example

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Dissertation - Discussion

It would be impossible to overestimate the effect that World War II had on the United States or the rest of the world. In the aftermath of the war, the United States emerged as one of the world’s superpowers, and the reach of its political and economic influence was felt around the globe. Domestically, the post-war economic boom, and the attendant implications for American society, caused a paradigm shift with ripple effects that are still felt to this day. At the core of the changes wrought to American society were the economic benefits that offered new opportunities for millions of Americans. During the war, for example, millions of women entered the workforce out of necessity; after the war, many of these women stayed in the workforce by choice. This shift in the demographic of working people would serve as the foundation for future social movements related to equal rights for women, civil rights for minorities, and an overall reshaping of the American workplace. During this period the labor movement and unions gathered strength, and the economic boom underpinned the rise of American political supremacy that would eventually lay the groundwork for the Cold War. New opportunities for minorities were now available as well; minorities were able to seek better jobs, acquire college degrees and other educational advancements, and climb social and economic ladders in ways that were simply unavailable in earlier times.

A number of significant social movements were rooted in the post-war era, though some would not become prominent until years or even decades later. As the children born in the post-war baby boom began to reach adulthood, many of them became involved in movements related to social and political issues. The Civil Rights movement that gathered steam in the post-war ear came to a head in the 1960s; this movement promulgated unrest and strife, but also led to advancements that were codified in the Civil Rights act and were manifested in changes to the social fabric of the nation. The U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war, and the existence of the draft which compelled tens of thousands of young American men to enter into military service, would spur a significant anti-war protest movement that began in the 1960s and carried over into the 1970s. College campuses across the country served as crucibles for the anti-war movement; young people who grew up in the country’s most prosperous era, and who had educational, social, and economic opportunities that simply did not exist in previous generations, were often unwilling to fight in a war they believed was unjust. There is some irony in this, as it was World War II, and its resulting economic and social implications, which made it possible for the generation of the 1960s to enjoy so many new opportunities. While the idea of an anti-war movement of any significance during World War II would have been simply unthinkable, many in the baby boom generation found the notion of engaging in war similarly unthinkable.

Questions for further consideration:

  1. While many of the leaders of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s espoused a non-violent approach, there were many instances of violence related to the clash between Whites and Blacks during this period. Who were some of the members of the Civil Rights movement who did not espouse non-violent resistance, and what was their effect on the movement?
  2. The Cold War and the arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union were predicated on the idea that both of the superpowers had the capacity to destroy each other both with conventional and nuclear weapons. In hindsight, how much of the concern the U.S. had about the Soviet Union’s military capacity was rooted in fact, and how much of it was predicated by unrealistic or unfounded fear and paranoia?
  3. Although the U.S. has been involved in several significant military operations and conflicts in recent decades, none of these conflicts have spurred the sort of anti-war movement that arose during the Vietnam era. One of the major differences between then and now is that the draft has been replaced by voluntary participation in the military. Is the existence of a volunteer armed forces the most important reason why there have not been any large-scale anti-war movements in recent decades?
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