Sociological Imagination: Western’s Undergraduate Sociology Student Journal

Article Title

The American Dream: A Theoretical Approach to Understanding Consumer Capitalism


The term ’American dream’ was coined by James Truslow Adams in The Epic of America (1931). Adams, writing of Americanism as embodied in the founders, stated that “it is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable…” In exploring the American Dream from a theoretical perspective, this paper moves from the puritan capitalist values encapsulated by Weber which laid the foundation for consumption to the critical perspective Horkheimer in late modernity. A review of the phenomenological institutionalization of consumption is discussed with a look at Bourdieu’s forms of capital. Finally, Baudrillard’s post-modernistic thought is brought to bear on consumptive practices, with a discussion on the repercussions of modern life in a consumer society.

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