Research Paper: American Dream According to Jack

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American Dream

According to Jack Solomon, the American dream "has two faces: the one communally egalitarian and the other competitively elitist." Egalitarianism is a myth that Americans aspire to, but a goal that is impossible to fulfill due to structural inequities and institutionalized racism and sexism. Elitism is, however, tragically real. Patriarchy and white power are inherently elitist social structures and patterns that reinforce themselves by keeping the underclass continually striving for satisfaction via consumerism. Built into the system of relentless pursuit of material belongings is a sense of competition and one-upmanship. Solomon also mentions that the symbol of the American Dream is presented as a desire for popularity and belonging to the magical nation of the United States. Actually, the American Dream only serves to isolate people from their peers because it is a self-serving endeavor. Competitiveness and elitism are cornerstones of the American Dream.

Competiveness is a cornerstone of the American Dream, because the Dream is built on the assumption that everyone should pursue material wealth in a world with finite resources. With finite resources, competition is inevitable. Competition is heralded as the most important factor in ensuring a free market, and the love of competition is paralleled in the way people live their daily lives. Perhaps more importantly, the nature of competitiveness in the United States is fueled by cultural messages in the media. The car industry is one example of how competition shapes consumer behavior. Brockmann and Yan found that cars are one of the primary status symbols in America and that status competition is especially high during times of affluence. Reality television shows are also developed with competitiveness in mind. The contestants on reality television shows are competing for something, and the end result is social status that comes from winning. Some shows offer insipid insights into how people are willing to sacrifice normative social behaviors in the interests of self-promotion. The goal is to fulfill the American Dream via fifteen minutes of fame. Ironically, the fifteen minutes of fame and money won in prizes does not lead to a more fulfilling life.

There are many other ironic manifestations of the American Dream, such as the contradictory nature of altruism in America. Altruism has sadly become a status symbol, evidence in the way people promote their favorite charities or claim to support the environment. As Griskevicius, Tybur and van den Bergh point out, status motives are used in the marketing of "green" products, which cost more than their polluting counterparts. Thus, a person who does not genuinely care about the environment might purchase "green" products as a means of showing off social status. The green products are "one-upping" neighbors. Some Americans might care about the environment, but many believe mistakenly that buying "green" is all they need to do. Buying "green" is merely a social status marker to show that the person is not a redneck but associates with more enlightened people from places like California.

Status symbols serve as means to differentiate one individual from another. The United States cultivates a highly individualistic worldview, in which it is preferable to pursue personal gain than to participate in activities that promote the collective good. This is probably why Americans believe that socialism is a bad, even evil, thing. Americans are programmed to view altruism as an ethical ideal, evidenced by the consumer spending on "green" products. Yet there is cognitive dissonance in this behavior because Americans are also socialized to believe that each person must struggle himself or herself, and that welfare is a terrible thing. Many Americans fail to realize that the social service systems in place have helped their parents and grandparents, and that few people can lift themselves up by the bootstraps without any intervention or assistance. The myth that the American Dream is… [END OF PREVIEW]

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American Dream According to Jack.  (2013, November 17).  Retrieved July 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/american-dream-according-jack/5766581

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"American Dream According to Jack."  17 November 2013.  Web.  19 July 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/american-dream-according-jack/5766581>.

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"American Dream According to Jack."  Essaytown.com.  November 17, 2013.  Accessed July 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/american-dream-according-jack/5766581.