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skilled workers.[8] The aftermath of World War II exacerbated the ethical shift as a consumer culture blossomed and Americans became preoccupied with material goods. As one critic noted, “consumed by desires for status, material goods, and acceptance, Americans apparently had lost the sense of individuality, thrift, hard work, and craftsmanship that had characterized the nation.”[9]

The result of this shift in work ethic has actually spurred rather than lessened the people’s desire to achieve the American Dream. Yet the real difference is that the Dream has become more of an entitlement than something to work towards. Many Americans no longer entertain a vision for the future that includes time, sweat, and ultimate success. Rather, they covet the shortcut to wealth. Many who are engaged in work view it more as a necessary evil until striking it rich. This idea has been perpetuated by a massive marketing effort that legitimizes the message that wealth can be obtained quickly and easily. Whether through the television entertainment industry, state-based lottery marketing drives, or legal advertisements, Americans are told again and again that the road to the financial success of the American Dream is more a matter of luck than hard work.


[1] Winthrop urged his listeners in a 1630 sermon to follow the Laws of God, and in doing so they would form a proper society and obtain God's grace. "…wee must Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are upon us." John Winthrop, "A Modell of Christian Charity," in Perry Miller and Thomas H. Johnson, eds., The Puritans: A Sourcebook of Their Writings, (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963), 195-199. For King's vision of racial equality, see Martin Luther King, Jr., "The American Dream," Negro History Bulletin 31 (5) (1968): 10-15.

[2] There are far too many scholarly manifestations of the American Dream to document in one note, but listed are several categories that represent recurring themes. For purposes of space I list, at most, only four works from each category. Economics: Charles R. Geisst, Visionary Capitalism: Financial Markets and the American Dream in the Twentieth Century, (New York: Praeger, 1990); Katherine S. Newman, Declining Fortunes: The Withering of the American Dream, (New York: Basic Books, 1993); Wallace S. Peterson, Silent Depression: The Fate of the American Dream, (New York: Norton, 1994); Alice M. Rivlin, Reviving the American Dream: The Economy, the States & the Federal Government, (Washington: Brookings Institute, 1992. - Education: Larry Cuban, "American Dreams and Public Schools," Social Education 46 (6) (1982): 390-393; Roland L. Guyotte, "Liberal Education and the American Dream: Public Attitudes and the Emergence of Mass of Higher Education," (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1980); Dale Mann, "Chasing the American Dream: Jobs, Schools, and Employment Training Programs in New York State," Teachers College Record 83 (3) (1982): 341-376. - Ethnicity/Race: Carlos E. Cortes, "Ethnic Groups and the American Dream," Social Education 46 (6) (1982): 400-403; Buell G. Gallagher, "The American Dream: Hypocrisy or Hyperbole?" Crisis 82 (10) (1975): 417-421; Zina T. McGee, "Racial Equality in America: A Dream Deferred," Journal of American Ethnic History 15 (3) (1996): 52-56; Daniel S. Shiffman, "Claiming Membership: Ethnic Narratives and the American Dream," (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1994). - Film/Drama: James C. Curtis and Joseph J. Huthmacher, "The American Dream on Film," Film and History 3 (3) (1973): 17-19; Gerard Jones, Honey, I'm Home! Sitcoms: Selling the American Dream, (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1992); Kate Meyers, "John Wayne and the American Dream: The Need for Heroes in a Land With No Exit," Purview Southwest (1988): 190-197; Tom Scanlan, Family, Drama, and American Dreams, (Westport: Greenwood, 1978). - Foreign: Paul Benhamou, "Aspects of the American Dream in the French Enlightenment," Michigan Academician 11 (1) (1978): 33-38; Robert Chodos and Eric Hamovitch, Quebec and the American Dream, (Toronto: Between the Lines, 1991); Ines Murat, Napoleon and the American Dream, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981); Richard Madsen, China and the American Dream: A Moral Inquiry, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). - Literature: Sally P. Harvey, Redefining the American Dream: The Novels of Willa Cather, Cranbury: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1995); James B. Klee, "Hemingway and the American Dream," West Georgia College Review 4 (1) (1971): 27- 31; Elizabeth Long, The American Dream and the Popular Novel, (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985); William Wasserstrom, The Ironies of Progress: Henry Adams and the American Dream, (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984). - Politics: Ray D. Dearin, "The American Dream as Depicted in Robert J. Dole's 1996 Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech," Presidential Studies Quarterly 27 (4) (1997): 698-713; Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, (New York: St. Martin's, 1991); John W. Sloan, "The Reagan Presidency, Growing Inequality, and the American Dream," Policy Studies Journal 25 (3) (1997): 371-386; Tom Wicker, One of Us: Richard Nixon and the American Dream, (New York: Random House, 1991). - Religion: Robert Benne and Philip Hefner, Defining America: A Christian Critique of the American Dream, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974); Malcolm Bull and Kieth Lockhart, Seeking a Sanctuary: Seventh-day Adventism and the American Dream, (New York: Harper & Row, 1989); James Hudnut-Beumler, Looking for God in the Suburbs: The Religion of the American Dream and its Critics, 1945-1965, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1994); James C. Juhnke, "One Nation Under God: Religion and the American Dream," Mennonite Life 38 (4) (1983): 23-26. - Sports: Steven A. Reiss, "Sport and the American Dream," Journal of Social History 14 (2) (1980): 295-303; George Grella, "Baseball and the American Dream," Massachusetts Review 16 (3) (1975): 550-567; Gerard A. Brandmeyer, "Baseball and the American Dream: A Conversation with Al Lopez," Tampa Bay History 3 (1) (1981): 48-73.

[3] Herbert Gans notes that owning a home is at the center of the “middle class dream.” See The Levittowners: Ways of Life and Politics in a New Suburban Community, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1976); Both David Halberstam and Ronald Oakley discuss the importance and proliferation of cars in twentieth century American society. See, Halberstam, The Fifties, (New York: Villard Books, 1993), 486, and Oakley, God’s Country: America in the Fifties, (New York: Debner Books, 1986), 239.

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