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American Dream

  • By: Torben Huus Larsen
  • In: Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture
  • Edited by: Dale Southerton
  • Subject:Sociology of Consumption, Consumer Psychology, Consumer Culture

The American Dream is a central symbol of the American experience, based on the premise that, through individual agency, success and happiness are realistically attainable goals for anyone regardless of class, gender, race, or religion. The dream has proven so powerful an influence on American life and culture that it is sometimes referred to as part of a civil religion, in which the widespread association of success with the accumulation of material wealth has increasingly turned consumer products into status symbols through which consumers seek to position themselves socially.

Credit for coining the term is usually given to American historian James Truslow Adams, who used it in his one-volume interpretive history of the nation, The Epic of America, published in 1931. To Adams, the dream signified ...

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