The Great Depression
The Great Depression was a time of great strife for millions of Americans. Thus, in many people, this period led to the emergence of various sorts of behaviors such as generosity, selfishness, paranoia, despair, resourcefulness, and so on. In other words, like any other event, the Great Depression brought numerous negative as well as positive consequences for the United States. Moreover, it has left such an unforgettable impression on the American nation that its effect is still felt today. This impact is felt in the political (legislation, parties’ division), economic (infrastructural projects, financial development of the country), social (social standards, living and working conditions), and cultural (art, music, photography, cinematography, radio) spheres. The Great Depression has left an unforgettable impression on the American nation, and it should never be forgotten and should be always remembered.
The Impact of the Great Depression
The Great Depression is often associated with demoralizing despair, bear markets, bank closings, and soup lines as well as numerous other aftershocks such as Nazi Germany, Keynesianism, and even WWII. Even though Great Depression was a horrible period of time in national and global history, it also had a positive impact on the life of Americans, consequently helping shape the development of the state to its current level (Robbins, 2009). Generally, the impact of the Great Depression in the United States can be summarized by an Asian saying – the irritation in the oyster forms the pearl. In other words, despite the fact that many people could not face and manage the hard times of severe economic recession with hunger, unemployment, and hopelessness, thus ending their lives with suicide, the majority of Americans had managed to respond to this challenge, each in their own way. Some people demonstrated negative sides of their character such as selfishness, paranoia, and despair, while others managed to show positive traits of character such as resourcefulness and generosity. While numerous businesses disappeared during the Great Depression, others even remained stronger. People had to use all their creativity and forces to survive, to compete, to learn, and to advance.
Positive Influence of Great Depression
hanks to the people who did not abandon hope and fought for their place in society during that difficult time by manifesting resourcefulness and generosity, the Great Depression became a good opportunity to show their own talents and skills. Their contribution made the Great Depression the Golden Age of film and the radio, the era of social sports, such as softball, Monopoly, and bridge, and the time of the invention of the electronic microscope, nylon stockings, network television, semiconductors, digital electronics, and radar. Moreover, thanks to such resourceful people, the washing machine, the refrigerator, and other similar home equipment turned into the products of the mass market. Roads became wider and smoother, while railroads became faster. Thus, it no wonders that the well-known American historian Alexander Field (2008) described the 1930s as “the most technologically progressive decade of the last century” (p. 1). One can only wonder how much time it would have taken to bring all these discoveries into reality without the government funding, urge for economic transformation that was dictated by the post-war economic conditions, and the simple need to survive.
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Negative Impact of Great Depression
At the same time, during hard times, people also show their worst trait of character. For instance, due to the scarcity of practically everything, the inability to support themselves and their family, the impossibility to find a job, and the simple need to survive, many people manifested selfishness, paranoia, and despair. Thus, the level of crime in the country significantly increased (Foner, 2017). In these conditions, the easiest way to get something was to steal. Moreover, many people were afraid to share and help each other, which was crucially important at that time and it could save the lives of many people. Some became alcoholics due to their inability to manage own life. In addition, naturally, for such conditions, people spent less and saved more, which was quite bad for the economy. Unfortunately, the reflection of such traits of character has had a negative impact on the economic and social development of the United States, and it is still felt today in the numerous consequences of the Great Depression.
Managing the Negative Impact of the Great Depression
In order to fight the above-mentioned negative traits of the Great Depression and help people fight despair, selfishness, and paranoia as well as achieve stability in society, the government established numerous important projects. Among the most important measures implemented during the Great Depression that can still be felt today, one should mention the implementation of the National Pension System, the oversight of labor practices, the support of agricultural prices, the protection of people’s savings, the stock market regulation, and the improvement of communication (Bovenzi, 2015). In addition, other important measures were implemented in the course of the Great Depression. In particular, the 21st Amendment was ratified, thus prohibiting alcohol on the national level. Generally, this measure allowed to reduce alcohol consumption in the country and to avoid all social problems related to it. At the same time, as a response to the challenges of the Great Depression, people determined the five-day workweek and the maximum working hours, the right to a collective bargain, minimum wages, and the insurance for federal homeowners (Foner, 2017). In addition, thanks to the implementation of the New Deal, the federal government took direct responsibility for the well-being of people and for the protection of their welfare by serving school lunches, making relief payments, and numerous other responsibilities (Foner, 2017). Finally, all the above-mentioned measures became the foundation of economic growth after the First World War, making life much less risky for regular Americans.
The Great Depression as a Foundation of American Values
The Great Depression established the foundations of American values. In particular, it has formed the notion of American freedom in the form that is common for society today, such as the synergy of respect for cultural pluralism and civil liberties, and has established the free expression of opinions and progressive belief in the socially and economically conscious country (Foner, 2017). In other words, the Great Depression has formed the new type of liberalism that still exists today. The world-popular notion of the American Dream was also invented during the Great Depression. This phrase first appeared in the book Epic of America in 1931, written by the well-known historian and writer James Truslow Adams. In this book, Truslow Adams described it as the dream of a land where life would be richer and better for everyone. Since that time, both pessimistic and optimistic people, or those who reflected despair and those who showed resourcefulness during the Great Depression respectively, wanted to achieve the American Dream by all means, but only the strongest had managed to reach it.
The Great Depression and Art
Art (in all its possible forms) reacts quite quickly during the time of any social upheaval. For instance, thanks to the Great Depression, the genre of blues acquired great popularity in the United States. Some musicians reflected the negative sides of the times, which manifested themselves in people’s despair, paranoia, and selfishness, with the well-known songs such as “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” by Rudy Valle, “NRA Blues” by Bill Cox, “Gloomy Sunday” by Billie Holiday, and “Detroit Moan” by Victoria Spivey. At the same time, despite numerous challenges, many people remained positive about the times and reflected their generosity and resourcefulness in their songs such as “There is a New Day Comin” by Ted Lewis, “Whistle While You Work” by Artie Shaw, and many others. This music became the foundation for other genres, leaving an unforgettable mark on American music.
Moreover, many infrastructure and art projects implemented in the times of the Great Depression are still beneficial for Americans today. The analysis of history also demonstrates that the Great Depression has significantly influenced other spheres of arts. For example, during their public works, hundreds of artists worked on the decoration of the public buildings with murals. They reflected their positive and negative feelings about the Great Depression in their art. The majority of these buildings still exist today. Finally, the Great Depression developed significant resourcefulness among film directors. The classics of American cinematography, such as Gone with the Wind (1939), It Happened One Night (1934), Frankenstein (1931), and many others were produced in these years. Similar productivity and resourcefulness were also common for photographic art. Thus, the works of Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Theodor Jung, Ben Shahn, Walker Evans, Carl Mydans, Russel Lee, Marion Post Wolkot, Jack Delano, and John Vachon are still quite popular today. All these examples demonstrate the positive impact of the Great Depression on art. However, numerous artists who felt despair and even paranoia could not develop and show their skills in difficult times. Therefore, the Great Depression became the barrier but not the opportunity for them.
Considering the above-mentioned facts, one can conclude that the events of the Great Depression have inevitably impacted the nowadays life of Americans and left an unforgettable impression on the nation. During these difficult times, the USA significantly expanded the intervention of the government into the new areas of economic and social affairs and contributed significantly to the establishment of effective social assistance agencies that helped society in general, regardless of gender, social background, race, profession, or any other characteristics. Moreover, the Great Depression encouraged significant technological advancements, the low cost of living, responsible social behavior, and new forms of entertainment. The analysis of the Great Depression has demonstrated that even though it happened more than 80 years ago, its outcomes are still felt today. Its evaluation becomes especially actual and relevant nowadays in the context of recent financial crises and recessions. It is necessary to learn the lessons of the past and to adapt the experiences to the modern requirements and conditions.