Soured on the System

Disaffected Men in 20th Century American Film


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About the Book

This work analyzes popular films produced in the years of significant historical change from 1946 to the end of the twentieth century. Although the American middle class expanded significantly with the economic prosperity that followed World War II, postwar films often depict middle-class men as discontented with the mundane nature of work and with declining autonomy in an increasingly corporate-bureaucratic society. Disaffected male characters represent traditional values of independent thought and action as they negotiate life in the “organized system” (corporate life and the consumer culture) increasingly demanding dependence and conformity, which they resist. Such tensions between independence and conformity remain constant and central themes in American culture, and the phenomenon is rooted in silent feature films, early film shorts, and in nineteenth-century literary texts created as early as the 1850s.

About the Author(s)

Robert T. Schultz is an associate professor of history at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois. He has published a book on labor history and articles on work, culture and society.

Bibliographic Details

Robert T. Schultz

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 238
Bibliographic Info: 14 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6991-8
eISBN: 978-0-7864-9332-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments viii
Preface 1
Introduction: The Roots and Early Cultural Representations of Discontented and Disaffected Men, 1853–1945 5

1. Negotiating Corporate Life: Adapting to the Organized System in the 1940s and 1950s 37
2. Gunslingers and Gangsters in the Age of Corporate Combinations: The Veiled Struggle Against the Force That Is Evil in Joe McCarthy’s America 71
3. Similar Criticisms, Dissimilar Solutions: The 1960s and 1970s 103
4. Blowing Up and Dropping Out: Awakenings, Agency and Militancy at the End of the Century 149

Conclusion: Disaffected Men and Resistance in American Culture 189
Chapter Notes 199
Bibliography 215
Index 225

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Recommended”—Choice;
  • Schultz’s broad perspective provides insight into classic films that has not been provided by film scholars” — David W. Noble, Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota.