The great Depression In hindsight, it is easy to tell when the Great Depression began. On "Black Tuesday, "October 29, 1929, the New York stock market began a tumble that lowered stock prices by almost half within three weeks. The Wall Street crash demoralized American banks, investors and consumers, whose curtailed activities deepened the economic crisis. It sent shock waves around the world, triggering declines in securities markets, decreasing lending, and deflating prices in other industrialized countries. Yet the roots of the worldwide Depression go farther back in time than the Great Crash and extend over a much wider area than the United States. The Great Depression causes, there is no disputing its devastating impact. Between 1929 and 1933, over eleven thousand American banks failed; national production was cut in half; and thirteen million people (representing one-fourth of the labor force) were put out of work. Some European economies were hit even harder because they had not yet fully recovered from World War I. Throughout the industrialized world, unemployment ranged between 15 and 30percent of the workforce in the early 1930s. Ironically, agricultural countries tended to fare better. Plummeting crop prices hurt Brazil and India, for example, but peasants could grow their own food, and local businessmen recovered quickly by developing textile manufacturing and other industries.
The history of the world economy since the Industrial Revolution had been one of accelerating technological progress, of continuous but uneven economic growth, and of increasing "globalization," that is to say of an increasingly elaborate and intricate worldwide division of labor; an increasingly dense network of flows and exchanges that bound every part of the world economy to the global system. There was a crisis in primary production, both of food stuffs and raw materials, as their prices, no longer kept up by building stocks as before, went into free fall.Great Britain in 1931 abandoned Free Trade, which had been as central to the British economic identity since the 1840s as the American Constitution is to U.S. political identity. Britain's retreat from the principles of free transactions in a single world economy dramatizes the general rush into national self protection at the time. More specifically, the Great Slump forced Western governments to give social considerations priority over economic ones in their state policies. The dangers of failing to do so —radicalization of the Left and, as Germany and other countries now proved, of the Right— were too menacing.
Governments no longer protected agriculture simply by tariffs against foreign competition. U.S. passed its Social Security Act in 1935 Hitler introduced a "Four-Year Plan" in 1933. British economist John Maynard Keynes argued in General Theory of Employment Interest and Money that lower aggregate expenditures in the economy contributed to a massive decline in income and to employment that was well below the average. In such a situation, the economy reached equilibrium at low levels of economic activity and high unemployment. Keynes' basic idea was simple: to keep people fully employed, governments have to run deficits when the economy is slowing, as the private sector would not invest enough to keep production at the normal level and bring the economy out of recession. Keynesian economists called on governments during times of economic crisis to pick up the slack by increasing government spending and/or cutting taxes.
Roosevelt and Flitter symbolized "energy and commitment," and they were willing to experiment with government initiatives on an unprecedented scale in order to bring economic recovery. Roosevelt and Flitter symbolized "energy and commitment," and they were willing to experiment with government initiatives on an unprecedented scale in order to bring economic recovery. Hitler was more successful at restoring full employment. 1933, the Great Depression was at its low point, and the worst-hit countries were Germany and the United States. In both nations, industrial production had plumbed the depths. Unemployment was in the area of 25 percent of the work force, somewhere between 13and 16 million in America,6 million or more in Germany. Both countries had experienced periods of poor or at best, uninspired, leadership. Herbert Hoover lacked both political skill and popular appeal.
On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler became chancellor, and on March 4, 1933, in the midst of a financial panic that had caused thousands of banks to close their doors, Franklin D. Roosevelt took the oath as president of the United States. Roosevelt had been born to wealth and social prominence. He had attended elite private schools (Groton, Harvard, Columbia Law). His political career, culminating in two terms as governor of New York, had been successful but not particularly brilliant. Hitler was the son of an Austrian customs official of modest means. He had been a poor student and lazy. He dropped out of school at the age of 14. Later he lounged Vienna for five years, pretending to be studying art but mostly absorbing his ultra nationalist, anti-Semitic ideas. He spoke a most uncultivated form of German, and of course with an Austrian accent— not the kind of speech that one would expect to appeal to German voters. After serving in the army in the Great War, Hitler became involved in reactionary political movements. His National Socialist Party was scorned by most decent Germans in the 1920s, both for its ideology and because of the rowdy, violent behavior of its members. Yet despite all these apparent disadvantages. Hitler became the leader of a country whose citizens were supposed to have an exaggerated respect for hard work, education, high culture, and family lineage, and who had a reputation for orderliness and rigid obedience to the law. For some reason, Roosevelt and Hitler were especially appealing to their social and economic opposites: Roosevelt to industrial workers, farmers, the unemployed, Hitler to hard-working shopkeepers and peasants and then (after he achieved power) to industrialists, large landowners, and the military.
Cultural Change in the 1920’s The 1920s ushered in a new, more modern America. Prosperity and economic innovation created conditions that eroded the Protestant work ethic and outmoded the old values of thrift and self-denial. Automobiles and other mass-produced consumer goods fed a new emphasis on consumption and leisure, and advertising became big business. Jazz, short skirts and cigarette smoking suggested that a new, looser morality was replacing Victorian ways. Movies played a key role in this cultural drama of tradition versus change. Silent-film movie palaces provided an arena of fantasy where Americans' ambivalence about the new hedonistic lifestyle was played out. A "revolution in manners and morals" swept through middle-class America in the 1920s, fueled by postwar prosperity, new attitudes toward sexuality, Prohibition (which seemed to make drinking more attractive), and the automobile. It surfaced in many ways, ranging from the appearance of "flappers" and "speakeasies" to the growing popularity of Sunday drives(instead of churchgoing) and divorce.
American society and culture were changing faster and more fundamentally than the movies themselves Movies thus came to play a central role in the cultural conflicts that followed World War I. On both sides of the struggle, movies came to be seen as offering values distinctly different from those of the older middle-class culture, and providing greater opportunities for ethnic minorities than other economic sectors. Immigrants and their children were attracted to movie culture not merely because movies were cheap, ubiquitous and appealing as fantasy or entertainment. In American society, movies became a major factor in the reorientation of traditional values.
There were, however, Caucasian people known to behave very differently from Americans. These exotics inhabited such countries as France, Italy, Germany, Russia, Sweden, even Great Britain. Natives of these countries, though much on American minds during the European war of 1914-1918, did not often appear on the screens of American movie theaters, since the war had diverted European film industries from making fiction feature films. American moviemakers were thus given a free hand to perpetuate their own versions of the character of European nationalities, which generally did not rise above the gross stereotypes of blacks or American Indians, though normally they were more favorable. Europeans were more sensual, decadent, emotional, sinful than Americans, and also more calculating, rational and willful. After world War I , the field was open for performers who could create a comic style specifically tailored to American middle-class values; and so a new group of bourgeois comedians emerged in the 1920s.
Keaton, the greatest of the comedians to emerge in the 1920’s. Jazz developed in the late nineteenth century out tradition of African American musical expression that included work songs, marches, dance music, and spirituals. Spontaneous, emotional, and improvisational. Jazz blended African harmonic and rhythmic elements with American themes. Born in New Orleans, jazz music spread north, east, and west to American cities where blacks migrated in huge numbers seeking jobs during and after World War I. Jazz gained acceptance slowly because of its racial origin and its suggestion of loose morals or low living. Only when white orchestras adapted or imitated it in the late 1930s did jazz become popular with America's mass public. The jazz craze of Paris in the 1920s and the cultural exchange it represented formed one episode of a larger transatlantic cultural shift.
1920s.The American "Roaring Twenties" were paralleled by the "Crazy Years" in France, and the two were described in strikingly similar language. If American movie posters promised "beautiful jazz babies, champagne baths, and midnight revels,“ French club goers described "women with men's coats and cigarettes, crazy virgins and the feverishness in everyday pleasure."The French had less prudishness to overcome than American descendants of Puritanism, and being more deeply disillusioned by the recent European bloodbath, they were more eager to throw off conventional ways. But France's variant of cultural revolution arose from causes broadly similar to those of the American movement: a surge of postwar prosperity, new attitudes toward sexuality, the influence of records and movies, and the contribution of immigrant minorities. And both nations looked elsewhere for their models: like Americans who flocked to see "passionate" Europeans in the movies, the French imported the culture of transatlantic "others“ in this case, American blacks to inspire their revolution.