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Individualism and Conformity in the 1950s vs. the 1980s

Irene Taviss Thomson
Sociological Forum
Vol. 7, No. 3 (Sep., 1992), pp. 497-516
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/684662
Page Count: 20
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Individualism and Conformity in the 1950s vs. the 1980s
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Abstract

If the 1950s are remembered for conformity, the 1960s for rebellious individualism, and the 1970s for narcissistic individualism, images of the 1980s contain an ambiguous mixture of individualism and conformity, with similarities to the 1950s. But if the 1980s resemble the 1950s in some respects, are portraits of individualism and conformity in the later decade nevertheless different from their earlier incarnations? A comparative analysis of best-selling self-help books in the 1950s and the 1980s reveals the following changes: from "maturity" as a desirable end to an ever-changing self; from determinism about the self to antideterminism and constructionism; from institutional constraints and joys to interpersonal ones. These changes reflect the incorporation of ideas from the counterculture of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and may also stem from perceptions of a simultaneous increase in structural determinism and individual empowerment.

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