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The beat generation is a complex notion that embodies the traditions, social and personal values of people. This concept is closely connected with the historical and economic development of America, its liberation movement, and economic changes. Explaining the beat generation it is possible to single out social, personal, and economic dimensions that determine this concept. Taking into account economic perspectives, beat generation means opportunities for everyone to become prosperous despite his background and origin. From the very beginning of the American colonization period, people see the continent as a special place where there is plenty of opportunities for someone to become wealthy. Today, it is possible to define the beat generation from different perspectives, but in general: the American dream is the idea that through persistence, hard work and self-determination people can achieve prosperity and high social status. This notion has created workaholic cults based on principles of the beat generation.
Cultural changes had a great impact on the workaholic cult and customer wants. This process which took place in the 1960s resulted in the development of the creative sector as an integral part of the American dream. Educational establishments were places where human creativity was cultivated and could flourish. Most of them had tried to achieve social mobility but failed limited by gender and racial prejudices, lack of education, and financial support. The main authors who represent the beat generation are Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Lack Kerouac, Revert Duncan, etc. The main themes and strategies followed by these authors were taken from the social and economic relations of the period. Free-market capitalism supported (supports) a financial burden of struggling propositions (Buhle 43). On the one hand, economic development led to increased possibilities of education and the opening up of a greater variety of life changes, but these changes were minor in contrast to high-class opportunities. Also, rapid population growth of poor classes increased the burden on the financial resources and social provisions reducing buying potential of a particular individual from poor regions. The ideas of prosperity enslaved many Americans who tried to test the American dream and achieve higher social status. In the novel “On The Road” Jack Kerouac represents the “beat generation”, its values and lifestyle. This novel unveils many important questions concerning a self and identity, freedom of choice, and limits of this freedom. The main characters of the novel, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty represent the “beat generation” looking for adventures and trying to examine the true nature of the American dream. Another important detail of the novel which helps to understand the desire to travel is “the road” and car culture which was the core of the American dream and the remarkable feature of the “beat generation”. For both characters, Sal and Dean, the car was nothing more than a social scourge. The car and the road were closely connected with cultural, psychological, social, economic, and political effects and had a great impact on the characters’ life views (Charters 10).
The beat generation writers created a counterculture that reflects the unique values and traditions of the generation. Also, these ideas are heated by inequalities between the rich minority and the poor majority. Stressing the need to meet basic needs as the primary driving force towards development, sometimes imaginatively termed the basic needs approach, emphasizes that health and education are motors for productivity and that the basic needs of all sectors must be met (Waldman and Ginsberg 12). In their works, Gary Snyder, Lew Welch, Amiri Baraka speak about new cultural values and personal ideals Today, the differences between middle-class families and the poor are inevitably supported by social and economic constraints and the self-consciousness of people. For the beat generation, an American without a car and big house is an outsider, who is unable to settle his life. For this reason, millions of Americans take loans to meet the established criteria of prosperity. The main problem of Americans is that they spend more than they earn. This problem leads to large debts and psychological problems caused by hard-working and financial pressure. There is a false need fabricated by media and advertisers popularizing luxurious lifestyles and fashion (Buhle 87).
The beat generation writers claim that most people become enslaved to the workplace prisoners because they have to meet the highest possible standards established by media and society. The other problem is that people’s occupations or market positions have absolutely no bearing on their self-understanding or interpretation of their social world and neither has any relation to their individual or collective actions, which are quite unpredictable based on either. Social pressure is the main cause of financial debts and ‘free-will slavery’. If anything explains the goals people pursue it is the social conditioning they receive, high social classes are proud and seek power, the ordinary man is timid and seeks security. Such authors as Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Ed Sanders speak about an individual and his aspirations. Most people do not understand that social mobility is practically impossible for working-class children and immigrants because they cannot enter Universities and pay for their education. Also, “manic” is caused by racism and feminism organized via institutional frameworks especially within the state as part of the disciplinary power of state agencies like the police, but which is subject to ongoing contestations. Most female employees are viewed as mothers and wives which creates a glass ceiling for most of them and forces them to work hard for years to prove their professionalism and high level of responsibility (Waldman and Ginsberg 78). The beat generation underlines the role of technology and innovations in life of Americans and their dreams. The great layer of information and varieties of technology become available now, but the present-day situation is marked by such phenomenon as “technology stress”, which means that all technological advantages society is craving for are nothing more than ephemeral.
In sum, the American dream and false social values resulted in the workaholic cult and financial burden for many Americans (Miles, 65).
In sum, the beat generation was a unique movement that influenced both the cultural and social life of people. Social and economic uncertainty creates new tensions while reinforcing existing ones. The basic principle of this process is that in social process systems, prosperity is interrelated with the human or social aspects. The basic social and economic processes such as competition, conflict, accommodation, and assimilation lead to debts and financial pressure. The middle of the XX century was a time of great social and economic changes. The beat generation created a new counterculture appealing to millions of Americans.
Buhle, P. The Beats: A Graphic History. Hill and Wang; 1 edition, 2009.
Charters, A. The Portable Beat Reader. Penguin (Non-Classics); Uncorrected proof. Edition, 1992.
Miles, Barry. In The Sixties. Jonathan Cape Books, 2002.
Waldman, A., Ginsberg, A. The Beat Book: Writings from the Beat Generation. Shambhala, 2007.