Behind the collapse of the household economy in modern American society lie sweeping changes in social roles and the collective imagination. Can those forces be harnessed to deal with the challenges of a world in the wake of peak oil?
Postwar propaganda – “advertising” is too mild a word for the saturation campaigns that flooded the popular media in the late 1940s and early 1950s – presented middle class families with a glittering image of affluence in which convenient, up-to-date consumer products provided by the market would replace the dowdy routine of the domestic economy with a life of elegance and leisure. The reality behind the facade turned out to be much less palatable. Denied both the place in the market economy they had occupied during the war years, and the role in the household economy their mothers had held before that, millions of middle class women across America found themselves expected to lead a purely decorative and essentially purposeless existence.