The American Way of Life

            The American way of life is an expression that refers to the "lifestyle" of people living in the United States of America. It is an example of a behavioral modality, developed from the seventieth century until today. It refers to a nationalist ethos that purports to adhere to principles of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." It has some connection to the concept of American exceptionalism and the American Dream.

            During the time of the Cold War, the expression was commonly used by the media to highlight the differences in living standards of the populations of the United States and the Soviet Union. At that time, American popular culture broadly embraced the idea that anyone, regardless of the circumstances of his or her birth, could significantly increase his or her standard of living through determination, hard work, and natural ability. In the employment sector, this concept was expressed in the belief that a competitive market would foster individual talent and a renewed interest in entrepreneurship. Politically, it took the form of a belief in the superiority of a free democracy, founded on a productive and economic expansion without limits.An influential 1955 book, Protestant, Catholic, Jew by Will Herberg, identified the American Way of Life, politically "compounded almost equally of democracy and free enterprise", as the "common religion" of American society: The American Way of life is individualistic, dynamic, pragmatic. It affirms the supreme value and dignity of the individual; it stresses incessant activity on his part, for he is never to rest but is always to be striving to "get ahead"; it defines an ethic of self-reliance, merit, and character, and judges by achievement: "deeds, not creeds" are what count. The "American Way of Life" is humanitarian, "forward-looking", and optimistic. Americans are easily the most generous and philanthropic people in the world, in terms of their ready and unstinting response to suffering anywhere on the globe. The American believes in progress, in self-improvement, and quite fanatically in education. But above all, the American is idealistic. Americans cannot go on making money or achieving worldly success simply on its own merits; such "materialistic" things must, in the American mind, be justified in "higher" terms, in terms of "service" or "stewardship" or "general welfare"... And because they are so idealistic, Americans tend to be moralistic; they are inclined to see all issues as plain and simple, black and white, issues of morality. As one commentator notes, "the first half of Herberg's statement still holds true nearly half a century after he first formulated it", even though "Herberg's latter claims have been severely if not completely undermined... materialism no longer needs to be justified in high-sounding terms". In the National Archives and Records Administration's 1999 Annual Report, National Archivist John W. Carlin writes, "We are different because our government and our way of life are not based on the divine right of kings, the hereditary privileges of elites, or the enforcement of deference to dictators. They are based on pieces of paper, the Charters of Freedom - the Declaration that asserted our independence, the Constitution that created our government, and the Bill of Rights that established our liberties."

Gwennaëlle Lebrun

The American Way of Life

The American way of life is an expression that refers to the lifestyle of people living in the US. It was developed from the 17th century until today. It refers to principles of “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”. During the Cold War, this expression was used by the media in order to show the differences of living standard of the American and the soviet. At that time popular culture wanted to show the idea that anyone no matter of the circumstances of his birth could increase his standard of living through determination and hard work. AWF is considered as the religion of consummation and production and impose as the ideal of the whole world.

After WW2 American soldiers brought the American culture in Europe such as blue jeans, coca cola, jazz, blues... Movies showed vision of happiness and life different from Europe and actors like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe are the most significant example. The broadcast of American series will impose this new kind of lifestyle and European people wanted to live like them, they believed that the AWL is the best lifestyle. The birth of the middle class developed the suburbs and the aim of all American is to own a nice house in the suburbs. The AWL is the development of the consumer society with malls, fast food, televisions, cars and numerous credit cards. The emergence of prestigious universities like Harvard and Yale attracted young Europeans for getting American degrees.

But we have come to the end of this kind of lifestyle, society ought to be renewed because the sub primes crisis made hundred of thousand people unemployed, and millions families were evicted from their house. This crisis had made people realized that they lived beyond their means. Thousand

of retired people had to work again to live correctly, their pension were mainly based on stock exchange products. But this crisis is a kind of opportunity in a change of society. The over exploitation of naturals resources drives to an impasse and the sustainable development is going to substitute this consumer society and create a new American way of life.

Isabelle Dumont

The American Way of Life

It's commonly said that American culture is founded on the town and urban landscape; particularly skyscraper's district which take up big part in collective imaginary. Big American towns have similar structure and organization, which follow a concentric model. At center stand Central Business District. Intermediary districts lie round business's center and are constituted of old buildings, of factories and warehouses.
Suburbs set out in outskirts and receive middle-class. Homes are generally suburban and thedensity not elevated. There are also department stores, supermarkets, bureaucracy, and high technology industries and activities parks on the outskirts of the city. Outskirts are created to the detriment of rural space, but are accessible thanks to the motorway.

In American culture, towns have long been considered as a place where there are society's troubles. American towns have to side many challenges, such as the damage of urban equipment, the financial crisis creating rises of expenses, or town's crisis which have led to crime and pauperization’s growth.

Anne-Lise Fournial

American Way of Life

When I chose this subject, I wanted to describe the American way of life in general. But, after reflection, I realized that this choice would not be interesting.

Indeed, if I use the French example, I can affirm that the French way of life is very different depending on whether we live in Paris or in Limoges. In Paris, the very British stereotype which represents the French citizen with a beret on his head and a baguette in his hand is replaced by the traditional daily grind ( métro, boulot, dodo ).

In front of this assessment, I decided to compare the evolution of the American way of life between the Bush and Obama’s office in correlation with the beginning of the economic crisis.

From a French point of view, the American way of life is characterized by an anxiety of appearance. The pride dominates and the pomp proves social success.

This American characteristic is still relevant today, but, with the economic crisis, the consumption- pillar of the American economy- has fallen and was replaced by more humility in front of the tragedy lived by a lot of American who are unemployed or homeless.

This change can be a saving for a country which lived beyond its means. This evolution of mentality can be illustrated by some opposite speeches of the two presidents. George W. Bush invited the Americans to spend a lot of money in shopping for the recovery of the American economy after the 11th September 2001. Today, Barack Obama wants prosperity on a long view and isn’t interested in a lot of benefit on a short term.

The change of president in the USA can have another consequence: in France, Bush can be caricatured like we caricature the Republicans which are always wearing a suit and smoking a big cigar. His politics corresponded to this idea of superiority, of domination. For example after the 11th September, when Bush wanted to commence the war in Iraq, the USA broke the ban of the security council of the United Nations. Obama for his part seems to be more conciliatory and the domination is replaced by a desire of cooperation.

For example, at the beginning of the economic crisis, nobody would have imagined that the USA would collaborate with the European states on the development of a reflation plan. The news shows this evolution with the prize giving of the peace Nobel Prize to Obama for his implication in the international cooperation.

This change of America is the result for a part of the economic stagnation and for another part of a real politic will. The general speculation will stop. The consumption is evolving and the lasting development becomes a reality. The race to benefits is rivaled by a beginning of social policy which appeared necessary in a modern society.

However the USA is always the driving force behind the world economy. But today, this country seems to be more open. For example, I saw with surprise that in New York French is growing where Americans adopt the French way of life. I think that this experience shows that the American model can be enriched by others cultures and way of life.

Skoczylas Youri

Food and Super Size me

Super size me is an American documentary film realised by Morgan Spurlock. The journalist decides to feed only on Mac Donald's during one month. He investigates the harmful effect of fast food which leads to obesity. The title is a pun with the commercial name Super size, which is the biggest menu in the fast food.

Morgan Spurlock wanted to get more information on this type of food, and the impact of junk food on health. To hold his investigation, he crosses the country and asks experts: a sports teacher, cooks, lawyers, a former health secretary. They confess their feelings, fears and doutbs.

During his investigation, Morgan Spurlock decides to take the experiment of eating only at MacDonald’s. This would be done under medical supervision.

He establishes 4 rules for himself:
  • eat three meals at Mac Donald’s;
  • try out each course once;
  • eat only the food proposed by Mac Donald’s;
  • Take the option Super size each time it's proposed.
He gains eleven kilos in one month, detroys his liver, and increases his cholesterol. Doctors recommend stopping but he wants to continue his experience. He reaches his goal but it takes him more than one year to get back to his original healthy self.

Also at the end of 2004, so six weeks after the release of film, Mac Donald's abolished the menu Super Size, but the company refused to say that the two events were linked. Salads and light sauces are introduced to the concept after the film.

Michael Moore

Since its origins the American film industry imposes its taste and has contributed to building the dreams of all citizens. This country carries épinal's pictures, majesty pictures, liberty pictures of him. At the cinema, the American way of life is present like a myth. However the states themselves express too virulent critics against this way of life. The documentary of Morgan Spurlock also enrols in the movement of the militant documentaries created by Michael Moore and knows big success.

In 2004, Michael Moore produces the film “Fahrenheit 9/11” adjusted documentary, with the aim to influence presidential elections of 2004. He attacks Georges W. Bush and his administration; he criticizes professional links between the Bush’s family and Ben Laden’s. He also talks about the second Irak war.

“Bowling for Columbine” is another film by Michael Moore realised in 2002. It's a criticism of the American society. The realisator tries to answer the question: “why the amount of homicides with guns proportionately more important in the USA that in others countries?” He reminds us of the gunfire in Columbine High school in 1999 where 12 students and professors were killed by 2 students. In 1999, he creates and presents the show “The awful truth” where he talks about serious subjects with humour. He denounces for example the Health Maintenance Organization greedy of profits; on this subject he does a pun translating the initial HMO in “Hand the Money Over”. He invites a health company at the funeral ceremony of one on its customers for which the company refuses to pay pancreas transplantation. Thanks to Michael Moore’s action, the company decides to pay for all pancreas grafts.

For his frequent attacks, Michael Moore has been sued 23 times by companies who felt disturbed by his writings or his documentary film. He gets 23 victories in court, for example, after the film “The Big One”, Nike is obliged to stop children's work in Indonesia for its production.