The American Dream referat

The American Dream

- Term "invented" by an American historian during the Great Depression
- A concept in history, society and culture
- There is no definition of it or rather everybody has his own (complexity and vagueness)
- History:
o The pilgrims, first settlers, immigrated to America for several reasons: Europe was overcrowded, they were persecuted, .
o For them America was the promised land, the land of milk and honey, a new world in which they would be able to correct all the mistakes made in Europe (politics, society, .)
o They were poor and had to make a living there
o They had many problems: cold winters when many died, had to build houses, plant crops, but they did not give up
o They had a strong believe in God who had singled out America as his chosen country. They were the chosen people.
o They would not let anybody get them down.
- Mayflower Compact: the first pilgrims formed rules: liberty, equality; equal and just laws. The American form of government would be the sole guarantor.
The government should be by, of and for the people.
- Declaration of Independence:
o 1776
o Framework of political philosophy and principles for the new republics
o Gave reasons for separation:
§ Equality
§ Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness
§ Governments to secure these rights and not to force laws, .
à Free and independent, no British colony anymore; own country
o Declared rights of the new country: contracts, war, peace, .
- Frontier spirit:
o Europe: limited area, frontiers between people
o America: first development between Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains: high standards, but overcrowded
o People had to move west and start again. à continuous touch with simplicity and primitive conditions
o Steady movement away from Europe
o When life was not as they wished, they moved on hoping to find better conditions.
o Individualism, anti-social, antipathy to control
à Mobile people: they do not stick to one place, but start again with almost nothing; nothing can stop them or make them give up à steady progress, steady improve, cross boundaries
o Today: no boundaries (accepted): fly to the moon, to the mars
à connection with science
- Manifest Destiny:
o A fervent supporter of the Democratic Party says: "America's mission to democratise the world", "nation of the future", "manifest to mankind the excellence of divine principles"
o The Americans used this belief to justify its territorial expansion and the imperialism.
o Role as a global mediator in political conflicts
- Success:
o If you only try hard enough you can reach your aim. If you fail, you have not tried hard enough, you have sinned (pilgrims and their belief in God)
§ Work hard à achieve goals and improve position in life
§ Opportunity for each according to ability and achievement
§ Recognised by others for what you are
§ Do not give yourself up as individuals to selfishness, physical comfort and cheap amusement
o Social status does not matter (pilgrims started with nothing)
o From rags to riches.
o Only the fittest survive.
- Melting Pot:
o Individuals of all nations melted into a new race of men.
o African people and Native Americans were excluded from the beginning on.
- Individualism:
o Central concept to view oneself and others
o Self-reliance and responsibility for own fate
o Roots:
§ Tradition of scepticism about any kind of government restriction/interference
à Personal freedom
à Ruthless free enterprise; no welfare programs (own fault)
§ Struggle for freedom: individuality <-> community (work for the community and it will come back, work together to make the dream come true)
à Fulfil dream at the other's expense
But: they have the idea that these people had the opportunity to work hard and fulfil their dream.
à Connection to the company owners during the Industrial Revolution

- Today:
o Americans do not let anybody get them down.
o Steady development
o America was thought to be the paradise, but: contradictory happenings

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