Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Defining the Good Life

This post is mainly about the American Dream. If you live in another country it should be easy enough to see how what I write applies to your society's main ideas about the good life. I say "main idea" because other ideas of the good life will also exist, as they do in the United States.

So, what do I mean by the American Dream? Its a house in the suburbs, a spouse, children, a stable career with a good salary and good prospects for continued advancement. The part about the house in the suburbs is what you probably thought of first. I suppose that is the most commonly accepted element of the American Dream.

Where did the idea come from and what are the consequences for individuals and for society? Remember that consequences of an idea like the American Dream can be good or bad. And always remember that what counts as good and bad will depend on one's perspective. I'll return to both of those themes in many of my future posts.

(A sociological sidenote - What follows is a functionalist analysis, meaning that it focuses on functions and dysfunctions of the subject. A function is simply a positive consequence or benefit whether or not planned; some functions just happen in the course of things. A dysfunction is a negative consequence.)

Next Time: I'll say more about the origins of the American Dream, and list some of the social functions it performs.


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