ABSTRACT

Often pictured as a time of exceptional stability by the popular culture of later generations, the postwar American epoch of 1950s conformism and complacency in reality marked a moment of rapid social change. Certainly for white, middle-class men the period connoted one of expeditious adjustment, as a pervading managerial, service-based, and family-orientated template of masculinity emerged, respectively reducing the influence of any traditional delineations of American manhood based on production or control. The rise and decline of such male personality modes logically corresponds with concurrent economic, social, and demographic forces and shifts; specifically, the wholesale move in America from a capital-accumulating and production-oriented economy to an affluent and commercial consumerist society. As David Potter explains, the hierarchy of corporations that arose out of the boom years of the fifties sparked a bureaucratic renegotiation of older conceptions of individualism and personal ambition. Whereas the formerly free industrialist found his success through “competitive and self-disciplined [labour],” the now servile, white-collar employee sooner sought the “domestic [rewards]” of such work as opposed to the pursuit of goals and work itself (Potter xxiii). The design of this “new and improved [mid-century] masculine identity” was, thus, fundamentally “detached” from the “[self-made] male entrepreneur of the early 28American metropolis or frontier plane,” and fashioned, instead, by the standardised “grey flannelled consumer” who “dwelled in the suburbs” amid the “leisure products and lifestyle amenities [of] a burgeoning mass-market economy” (Potter 70).