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The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s
     

The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s

by Lynn Dumenil
 

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When most of us take a backward glance at the 1920s, we may think of prohibition and the jazz age, of movies stars and flappers, of Harold Lloyd and Mary Pickford, of Lindbergh and Hoover--and of Black Friday, October 29, 1929, when the plunging stock market ushered in the great depression.

But the 1920s were much more. Lynn Dumenil brings a fresh

Overview

When most of us take a backward glance at the 1920s, we may think of prohibition and the jazz age, of movies stars and flappers, of Harold Lloyd and Mary Pickford, of Lindbergh and Hoover--and of Black Friday, October 29, 1929, when the plunging stock market ushered in the great depression.

But the 1920s were much more. Lynn Dumenil brings a fresh interpretation to a dramatic, important, and misunderstood decade. As her lively work makes clear, changing values brought an end to the repressive Victorian era; urban liberalism emerged; the federal bureaucracy was expanded; pluralism became increasingly important to America's heterogeneous society; and different religious, ethnic, and cultural groups encountered the homogenizing force of a powerful mass-consumer culture. The Modern Temper brings these many developments into sharp focus.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Turning to the flip side of the '20s' flapper image, Dumenil looks at the darker side of the decade forming the ``central motifs that have shaped the modern American temper.'' Between the end of WWI and the stock market crash, the aura of get-rich-quick prosperity overshadowed tensions resulting from the highly skewed distribution of wealth. The unfettered capitalism of the time is reflected by Calvin Coolidge, who said, ``The man who builds a factory builds a temple. The man who works there, worships there.'' In 1920, for the first time, half the U.S. population lived in cities. While life grew more organized, complex and sexually liberated, the reaction increased, too. Capitalists fanned a Red Scare following the 1919 Bolshevik Revolution, forcing American reformers to confront this inflated fear along with homegrown poverty and racism. Dumenil points to the mass consumer culture, corporate mentality, job structure that eroded individual autonomy, assembly lines, intense special-interest lobbying in Washington and the fusion of sexuality with consumption as among the decade's legacies to later American culture. Readers may wish that Dumenil spent more time on countervailing radical forces (Rand School of Social Science; Scott Nearing; Max Eastman's The Masses; Industrial Workers of the World, the IWW) that contributed to the ferment of this formative era. Even so, she has captured the fire of this volcanic time and weaves together scores of social and political threads into an insightful overview. (June)
From the Publisher

The Modern Temper is an engaging, stimulating, and thoughtful re-creation of one of our most interesting and complex decades. A wonderful accomplishment.” —Lawrence W. Levine, George Mason University

“Lynn Dumenil's The Modern Temper provides an exciting and original synthesis of a crucial decade that few of us really understand. She makes the insights and confusions of the women and the men of the twenties come alive. This is an important book.” —Ellen Dubois, University of California at Los Angeles

“Dumenil offers wealth of fresh insights on a fascinating decade. This illuminating study subtly recasts our understanding of an era whose tensions and stresses often uncannily parallel those of our own day.” —Paul Boyer, University of Wisconsin

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429924009
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
06/30/1995
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
765,807
File size:
393 KB

Meet the Author

Lynn Dumenil, professor of history at Occidental College, earned her Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley. She is the author of Freemasonry and American Culture, 1880-1930. She lives in Venice, California


Lynn Dumenil is Robert Glass Cleland Professor of American History at Occidental College. Dumenil has written The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s and Freemasonry and American Culture: 1880-1930, and she is editor in chief of the forthcoming Oxford Encyclopedia of American Social History.

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