Lecture 20 – Recovery to Radicalism 1953-68
Context: how difficult recover was
− Europe was a wasteland – places like Dresden were left destroyed from things like the
Dresden fire bombing
− 50-60 million were dead (1/3 of those civilians)
− Strategic bombing had wiped out cities – more German civilians died than soldiers.
− Constant shortages of food – dependent on American food supplies
− Industrial production down by 2/3
− Massive unemployment and homelessness
− 11 million displaced persons waiting to be repatriated
− Inflation wiped out savings
− Black market to get anything
Western Europe recovered quite quickly and surged ahead to the highest level of prosperity ever
known. Became known as “the miracle.” Why did this happen?
− Government planned mixed economies (capitalism with state planning)
− Social welfare states guaranteed housing, health, education and wages
− A high degree of state investment kept employment up and kept the state growing
− Technological innovation to mass produce appliances, cars, radios etc. and raise
− More and more education and highly skilled workers are feeding the consumer market.
However the first consumers societies were not without discontent.
 Why did new consumer societies rise?
a) New goods created new demand
− Social welfare states with planned economies made safety nets against depression and
consumer confidence rose. People were spending more and saving more – borrowing
− Confidence in the economy seen in rising birth rates related to post war economic
− Televisions were in high demand. In 1947 14,500 licensed tvs in Britain. By 1965 there
were 13 million.
− Cars were also in high demand. By the 1960’s the lower middle class could afford them.
− Also true of washing machines, fridges, and tobacco
− Food goes below 50% of a person’s spending
b) Distribution of wealth Top: No longer industrial owners because industry is now state owned. They are...
Bottom: have more disposable wealth than ever before
− Social services brought modest comfort
− Benefits were paid by the state
− Migrants – rising employment brought rural workers to the cities and lower people in
agrarian poverty are brought into contact with state welfare
− Society becoming more homogenous with middle class dominating
− Fewer outward signs of status
− Education is more democratized to allow more middle class
− Enormous increase in enrolment and more state investment in education
− Spread of leisure and mass tourism, paid vacations become standard
− 20% of West Germans go abroad on vacation.
c) Consensus Politics
− Appeared an era of ideological war
− Post war economic boom accelerated white collar workers; there are no longer many
− Very little depression made prosperity seem like a permanent thing
− All about goods – not about ideology – proven by the dominance of middle parties such
as Christian democrats. Centrism goes up and communis