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“”It's called the American Dream, 'cause you have to be asleep to believe it.
“”There is no British Dream. Now, this isn't because we lack some sort of sense of moral purpose. It isn't because we haven't got some sort of pride and destiny to take us to brighter tomorrow... No, we don't have a dream in this country... because we're awake.
|—Al Murray the Pub Landlord|
The American Dream was a concept promoted by American advertising in the post-World War II era. Based around a belief in "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", this ideology stated that anyone can pursue their dreams through hard work, free choice, and loyalty. Its aim was to not only to provide an idealistic lifestyle for Americans to follow, but also to encourage citizens from other countries to come to America to find their fortune. It is cited as one of the starting points of today's consumer-based culture.
The term was coined in the 1931 book Epic of America by James Truslow Adams.
It was promoted by television shows of the era, such as Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver. These programs displayed a supposedly honest, suburban lifestyle. In this scenario, the father was the head of the household and the pinnacle of knowledge. The mother had no interest in working outside the home. Instead, she did the household chores, aided by all the fancy new gadgets that made housework a breeze. In a change from before the war, smaller families were encouraged, with two or three children being the new norm.
It should also be noted that this ideology was based around "keeping up with the Joneses", a concept which promotes purchasing goods in order to maintain the appearance of a socioeconomic status that is the same as one's neighbors. If a man didn't, say, buy a new car because his neighbor has one, then he was generally looked down upon for what was perceived as a lack of wealth. This indicates a tiered hierarchy in social standings, where people without certain key items were of a lower class.
While influential during the fifties, it came under some criticism from hippies and associated radicals during the sixties for placing too much importance on the accumulation of material wealth.
Works such as The Death of a Salesman point out that people may have difficulty in achieving this idealized lifestyle.
In more modern times, it has become a fantasy or golden age for die-hard conservatives, replacing the Gilded Age, this being the golden age of 1950s conservatives. What's incredibly funny is that the man in charge at the time was responsible for the Interstate Highway System, NASA, the expansion of Social Security and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and warned against a "military-industrial complex". Try again.