A tragedy of a massive scale that was World War II pushed human civilization into a new era that was marked by several shifts in societal norms. It has changed the way of life for numerous countries as they were left in a chaotic, exhausted state. However, World War II also provided many opportunities to rebuild the existing institutions that would suit the needs of modern society. This essay examines the most common social changes stemming from World War II and the reasons behind their occurrence.
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This war has pushed many countries over the edge, leading to major political and societal reforms. During wartime, many people received new knowledge that allowed them to transform their lives afterward (Modell & Haggerty 210). Moreover, it revealed how the differences in societal roles negatively affected the potential of a nation, leading to the reinvention of gender roles and the raised topics of racism and discrimination (Modell & Haggerty 211). But one of the most important factors that stemmed from World War II was the accumulated stress of an entire generation (Modell & Haggerty 213). Social structures began to bend under pressure from this stressed majority who was affected by the war and demanded change.
With multiple catalysts stemming from the inventions of the Industrial era, humans began to rapidly change their social structures to ensure that their countries returned to prosperity in the shortest time possible. The changes in institutions that were necessary during World War II and have proven to be efficient were left untouched during the post-war period (Modell & Haggerty 220). The technologies of production that were created during the war changed to serve during peacetime, accelerating both production and consumption (Kammen 166). Moreover, mass media was able to expand due to the established communication lines, leading to the creation of popular culture (Kammen 51). Technological inventions whose implementation was significantly sped up during the war period contributed to the progress of human society.
The correlation between political views in the United States reveals how and why World War II affected society. During the war, the existence of a strong opposition led to the creation of more unified communities, strengthening patriotic feelings in people and increasing social cohesiveness (Modell & Haggerty 206). However, immediately after World War II, the U.S. government has failed to address numerous issues, such as welfare, urban renewal, tax burdens, and crime rates, which led to the disillusionment by people in conservative values (Smith 501). Smith argues that in the post-World War II period, “liberal trends outnumbered conservative trends by over two-to-one” (502). Modernization became one of the primary drivers for social change, as the ideals of people became more liberal (Smith 500). Social mobility has increased significantly after World War II (Kammen 258). Individual values became more prominently presented in society, while the notion of authority was challenged by democrats (Kammen 259).
In conclusion, World War II created a perfect opportunity for the society of the Industrial era to reform its social and political structures to become more fit to serve the people. Numerous inventions that occurred during wartime for the purpose of gaining an advantage on a battlefield turned out to be helpful after the war. The accumulation and the spread of knowledge by humanity increased, leading to new opportunities and dogmas that aimed to promote education, rationalism, and critical thinking. Many long-standing societal issues have resurfaced and shaped the course of human civilization for the next decades.
Kammen, M. American culture, American tastes: Social change and the 20th century. Knopf, 1999.
Modell, John, and Timothy Haggerty. “The Social Impact of War.” Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 17, no. 1, 1991, pp. 205-224.
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Smith, T. W. “Liberal and conservative trends in the United States since World War II.” Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 54, no. 4, 1990, p. 479.