During the great post–World War II economic expansion, modernization theorists held that the new American capitalism balanced mass production and mass consumption, meshed profitability with labor's interests, and ended class conflict. They thought that Keynesian policies insured a near full-employment, low-inflation, continuous growth economy. They viewed the United States as the “new lead society,” eliminating industrial capitalism's backward features and progressing toward modernity's penultimate “postindustrial” stage.7 Many Americans believed that the ideal of “consumer freedom,” forged early in the century, had been widely realized and epitomized American democracy's superiority to communism.8 However, critics held that the new capitalism did not solve all of classical capitalism's problems (e.g., poverty) and that much increased consumption generated new types of cultural and political problems. John Kenneth Galbraith argued that mainstream economists assumed that human nature dictates an unlimited “urgency of wants,” naturalizing ever increasing production and consumption and precluding the distinction of goods required to meet basic needs from those that stoke wasteful, destructive appetites. In his view, mainstream economists’ individualistic, acquisitive presuppositions crown consumers sovereign and obscure cultural forces, especially advertising, that generate and channel desire and elevate possessions and consumption into the prime measures of self-worth. Galbraith held that production's “paramount position” and related “imperatives of consumer demand” create dependence on economic growth and generate new imbalances and insecurities.9 Harsher critics held that the consumer culture blinded middle-class Americans to injustice, despotic bureaucracy, and drudge work (e.g., Mills, 1961; Marcuse, 1964). But even these radical critics implied that postwar capitalism unlocked the secret of sustained economic growth.
Antonio, R.J. (2009), "Climate Change, the Resource Crunch, and The Global Growth Imperative", Dahms, H.F. (Ed.) Nature, Knowledge and Negation (Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 26), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 3-73. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0278-1204(2009)0000026004Download as .RIS
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