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The Major Pivot of Post-WWII American History Essay


Nowadays, it became a commonplace assumption among many Americans that the causes, behind the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, during the course of the 20th century’s sixties, had to do with the fact that after the end of WW2, more and more citizens in America were becoming increasingly open-minded, in the social and political sense of this word. Yet, it often skips people’s attention that there were a number of fully objective reasons for this to be the case.

The foremost of these reasons was concerned with the fact that, during the course of the earlier mentioned historical period, the so-called Cold War between the USSR and the U.S. had reached its peak. In my paper, I will aim to substantiate the validity of this suggestion at length.

Main Body

Even though that, as of today, it became quite clear to just about everyone that it was namely the Soviet economy’s ineffective functioning, which predetermined the USSR’s collapse in 1991, during the course of the Cold War’s initial phases, a considerable number of citizens in Western countries continued to believe in the Socialism’s conceptual validity. This, of course was causing American policy-makers of the time a great deal of worry.

To make things worse, throughout the course of this specific historical period (and prior to the outbreak of WW2), the Soviet Union never ceased pursuing an utterly aggressive foreign policy. As Gaddis (1997) noted, “Stalin had been very precise about where he wanted Soviet boundaries changed… He insisted on having ‘friendly’ countries around the periphery of the USSR, but he tailed to specify how many would have to meet this standard (p. 28). This simply could not be otherwise – the very theoretical premise for the USSR’s founding in 1922 was the assumption that this country would succeed in spreading Communism all over the world.

After all, it does not make much of a secret that, right until the year 1991, the Soviet coat of arms featured the overlapped hammer and sickle over the planet Earth. Until the USSR’s collapse in the same year, the country’s Constitution openly proclaimed that it was only the matter of time, before the rest of the world’s countries would join the ‘workers’ paradise’. This explains the actual origins of the Cold War – after having realized that the losses, the USSR had sustained in the WW2, did not cause Soviet leaders to reconsider their Marxist agenda of attaining a geopolitical domination over the world, Western leaders decided to adopt an active stance, while opposing Communism.

Such their decision was reflected by Churchill’s famous speech at Fulton, “Churchill asked for ‘a fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples’ operating under the principles of the United Nations, but not inside that organization, to reorder the world” (LaFeber, 2001, p. 43). This speech marked the time when Western democracies have ceased trying to appease Communism and decided to begin confronting it actively.

Therefore, there is nothing too surprising about the fact that, during the early fifties, it had dawned upon the representatives of America’s political and financial elites that, in order for them to be able to prevent the continual popularization of Communist ideas among ordinary citizens, they had to set American Capitalism on the path of becoming increasingly people-friendly. This is exactly why, throughout the course of the fifties and sixties, the Federal Government was investing a great deal of effort into increasing the appeal of the American system of a political governing.

Passing bylaws that guaranteed union-members a number of the additional social benefits and introducing new welfare-programs reflected this process. Simultaneously, the Federal Reserve System (FDR) was encouraged to proceed with the policy of introducing more and more inflationary monetary-emissions, which revitalized the functioning of the America’s free-market economy and allowed the creation of new jobs.

In its turn, this resulted in the substantial improvement of living standards in America, from which specifically the representatives of the country’s lowest social classes were able to benefit the most. According to Coontz (1997), “Between 1945 and 1960… many working-class families also moved into the middle class. The number of salaried workers increased by 61 percent between 1947 and 1957. By the mid-1950s, nearly 60 percent of the population had what was labeled a middle-class income level” (p. 24). Slowly but steadily, more and more Americans were finding themselves in a position to enjoy a high quality living.

This, of course, created objective preconditions for them to grow politically conscious. After all, as we are being well aware of from the lessons of history – as soon as people are able to satisfy their ‘first order’ physical needs (such as securing well-paid jobs, and buying apartments/houses, for example), they usually move on to seek the satisfaction of their ‘second order’ emotional needs. This created prerequisites for the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in America – after having enjoyed an economic prosperity for a while, Americans started to pay an increased attention to the problem of racism. As time went on, their preoccupation with the issue was becoming ever stronger, which eventually led to the banning of ‘Jim Crow’ bylaws in the America’s South.

Thus, it will not be much of an exaggeration, on our part, to suggest that it was specifically the Cold War between the U.S. and the USSR, which predetermined the rise of this social movement in America. The validity of this suggestion can also be illustrated in regards to the fact that, as we now know, a number of this movement’s leaders were in fact Communist sympathizers, with some of them having been on the KGB’s payroll.

Therefore, it will only be logical to assume that it is namely the Cold War, which represents the major pivot of post-WW2 American history. After all, as it was shown earlier, if it was not up to the geopolitical confrontation between both superpowers, which caused the American version of Capitalism to become people-friendly, there would not be historical preconditions, during the course of the fifties and sixties, for Americans to continue growing ever more politically conscious – hence, prompting them to join the Civil Rights Movement.

Apparently, it was specifically their fear of Communism, which caused the America’s rich and powerful to choose in favor of sharing some of their riches with the country’s ordinary citizens, and not their philanthropic attitudes. This also explains why, as of today, a gap between the America’s poor and rich continues to widen rapidly – the superpower of the USSR can no longer be found on the world map.


I believe that the provided line of argumentation, in regards to the discussed subject matter, is being thoroughly consistent with the paper’s initial thesis.


Coontz, S. (1997). The way we never were: American families and the nostalgia trap. New York: Basic Books.

Gaddis, J. (1997). We now know: Rethinking Cold War history. New York: Oxford University Press.

LaFeber, W. (2001). America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-2000. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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"The Major Pivot of Post-WWII American History." IvyPanda, 13 Jan. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/the-major-pivot-of-post-wwii-american-history/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Major Pivot of Post-WWII American History." January 13, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-major-pivot-of-post-wwii-american-history/.


IvyPanda. "The Major Pivot of Post-WWII American History." January 13, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-major-pivot-of-post-wwii-american-history/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "The Major Pivot of Post-WWII American History." January 13, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-major-pivot-of-post-wwii-american-history/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'The Major Pivot of Post-WWII American History'. 13 January.

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