Is the American Dream Alive and Well  Term Paper

  • Length: 7 pages
  • Sources: 3
  • Subject: Sociology
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #14190925

Excerpt from Term Paper :

American Dream alive and well?

While the American Dream has been one of the most intriguing concepts in U.S. history, it has gradually come to be more and more difficult to access. Many people in the present actually have problems determining whether or not it still exists and this amplifies the problem. While most would prefer to believe that the American Dream never left and that anyone has the chance to make it in the American society, the reality is that there are a lot of interfering factors that make it difficult for people to achieve their goals in spite of the fact that they go through great trouble with the purpose of doing so.

Social class represents an important factor in the contemporary society and the American Dream has come to be closely connected to it during recent decades. The reality is that governments have the tendency to provide upper social classes with more attention than they provide working class individuals. This means that it is much easier for an upper class individual to achieve the American Dream than it is for a 'simple' person to do so.


The contemporary society appears to have experienced much progress during recent years and even with the fact that the American Dream was devised in the late eighteenth century, social class was an important factor differentiating between individuals who could actually go through great efforts in order to achieve greatness and those who did so without seeing any positive results. The fact that society experienced progress should play a significant role in bringing reform by providing working class individuals with more chances to succeed. However, social class continues to be a dominant factor making it difficult for lower class people to achieve the American Dream.

Dennis Gilbert's example (2) of the Titanic making it possible for the world to understand that social class was an influential concept differentiating between who would be successful and who would not is particularly intriguing. According to Gilbert (2), "just 7% of first class, but over half of third class passengers, went down with the Titanic." This makes it possible for society to understand that social class is very important when considering people's attitudes toward an individual. "The divergent fates of the Titanic's passengers present a dramatic illustration of the connection between social class and what pioneer sociologist Max Webber called life chances" (Gilbert 2). Individuals like Weber emphasize that one's chances to go through pleasant experiences in life are shaped by the respective person's class position.

Paul Fussel's "Class: A Guide Through the American Status System" provides a more complex understanding concerning the upper classes and their overall role in the American system. The writer emphasizes how it is currently impossible for people to refrain from categorizing individuals on account of their backgrounds, the clothes they wear, and their social status in general. It would be wrong to blame individuals for judging others, as this often is a result of a reflex, taking into account that people have become accustomed to taking on such attitudes and that they involuntarily tend to label individuals they interact with.

Fussel wanted his readers to understand that social class has come to be a divisive concept in recent years. As long as they are well-acquainted with attitudes they need to employ in order to be accepted by a certain community, individuals can easily pose into someone they are not and be provided with recognition on account of such behavior. This might be interpreted by someone as being relatively similar to living the American Dream, given that as long as a person convinces others that he or she belongs to a particular social order with the purpose of influencing the respective people to look at him or her from a different perspective, he or she is likely to have success in achieving his or her goals.

People's appearance is thus an important factor influencing others to assess whether or not it would be normal for them to adopt a more or less positive attitude toward these individuals.

The idea of the American Dream is, itself, a controversial concept, as while some might associate it with having a lot of money other are probable to associate it with achieving their dreams (without actually having to be wealthier than the majority). Most are likely to agree that social class is a determinant factor enabling an individual to achieve the American Dream, regardless of its exact meaning. As long as a person's social status provides him or her with the opportunity to buy the things he or she wants, attend the educational institutes he or she wants, and generally have access to concepts that he or she is interested in, it is obvious that the American Dream is more accessible to some.

It would be absurd to consider that an underprivileged person has the same chances as an upper-class individual to become a professional Formula One driver. Even if the former has the physical and mental abilities required for him or her to achieve his or her dream, it would be very difficult for him or her to go through all the stages that a professional driver needs to experience in order to be noticed. In contrast, an upper class individual who has the same abilities would find it much easier to reach his or her goal as long as his social status makes it possible for him or her to sponsor him or herself during the early stages of his or her training.

Fussel and Gilbert have diverging opinions concerning the importance of class in making it easier for people to achieve progress and eventually come to live the American Dream. While Gilbert appears to be especially supportive of the concept regarding how social class is a determinant factor differentiating between individuals who are probable to achieve the American Dream and people who are not, he too seems to be inclined to believe that the idea of social class is gradually changing. The fact that the world experiences progress in this domain makes matter more complex and thus more difficult for analysts to understand. The fact that "the transformation of the U.S. economy in the last two of three decades has affected the class structure" (Gilbert 15) brought reform and new problems that the world seems to be unable to deal with effectively.

The fact that it is difficult to determine a person's social status in the present is largely owed to wealth, background, or political eminence no longer representing factors differentiating between social classes. Consumption has come to be one of the most important concepts assisting the masses in making the difference between a privileged individual and an unfortunate person. Fussel's description of a new class that he relates to as "category X people" emphasizes that this particular class can be recognized by looking at the fact that people belonging to it express particular interest in living better lives.

Fussel most probably understood that luxury has come to be affected by democratic beliefs and that some no longer consider their social status to represent an impediment in making them take on behaviors that were previously characteristic only to upper class individuals. Many working class and working to-middle class persons have gotten actively engaged in buying their way out of the condition they are in. By focusing on buying products that seem classy, many have managed to get others to appreciate them as a result of their interest in living improved lifestyles rather than for their background, financial status, or for their political position. Taking into account Fussel's point-of-view, one might actually be inclined to believe that individuals belonging to category X compose a completely new community -- one that has nothing to do with social class. It virtually seems that these people are actively involved in removing the traditional idea of social class with the purpose of replacing it with a newer, more complex system that is focused on matters that have little to nothing to do with social status.

It is difficult to determine if Fussel actually states something that is not already obvious. Although he emphasizes the fact that class division is an important issue today, most of his thinking appears to be focused on discussing topics that are not necessarily new. Fussel's book is, however, intriguing because of the way that he addresses matters, as he provides readers with the chance to look at matters from a new, slightly amusing, perspective. Fussel makes it possible for his readers to understand that a great deal of individuals directly challenge the system by getting involved in activities that damage social class organization.

Numerous people today appear to express indifference with regard to social class and some even consider individuals belonging to the upper class as being snobbish. The very concept of being arrogant is enough to get the masses to think that it would be pointless for them to aspire to climb the social ladder. Instead, they come…

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