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Social Changes Review for AP World History

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

Review questions for this study guide can be found at:

Social Changes Review Questions for AP World History

Society After World War I

During the 1920s, Western society, most noticeably the United States, saw a rise in mass consumerism, especially in household appliances and in automobiles. The automobile decreased isolation and also allowed new freedoms for some adolescents in the United States. Some women turned to fashions that called for shorter skirts and hairstyles and behavior that allowed freer self-expression.

The movie industry was not only an outlet for artistic expression but also a new source of family entertainment. Modern painters such as Pablo Picasso combined geometric figures with non-Western art styles, particularly African, to create a new style called cubism. Modern architecture featured the use of concrete and broad expanses of glass.

At the same time, postwar Western society was characterized by a general feeling of skepticism. The devastation brought by the century's first global war was heightened by the despair of the Great Depression. Working classes and middle classes faced the prospect of unemployment or reduced salaries. In Japan, the depression increased suspicions of the Western way of life. Western states provided old age and medical insurance that eventually led to the institution of the welfare state. In the United States, the New Deal took government spending to new heights in an attempt to resolve the economic stagnation of the depression and provide for social security programs. Western European governments began to provide assistance to families with several children.

Post–World War II Western Society

After World War II, more women entered the workforce. Divorce was made more accessible, and effective birth control more conveniently available with the introduction of the birth control pill. Many European countries provided day care centers for working mothers. In the United States, the National Organization for Women (NOW), founded in 1966, campaigned for women's rights. The role of the church in family life declined as church attendance fell, especially in Europe.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States experienced a civil rights movement that ended segregation of African Americans and increased voting rights. Student protests against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War swept university campuses in the 1960s and early 1970s.

In the 1970s and 1980s, some Westerners began to question the concept of the welfare state. Both Great Britain and the United States elected leaders who adopted a more conservative approach toward government spending. Welfare programs were decreased under the leadership of Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Western European economic growth soared during the 1980s, producing a marked increase in consumer goods. Educational opportunities broadened throughout the world.

Society in the Soviet Union

Soviet leaders also built a system of welfare services, including protection for the sick and the aged. Soviet schools taught that religion was a myth. Western styles of art were denounced as decadent.

By the 1950s, the Soviet Union and most Eastern European nations were industrialized. Unlike the Western world, the factories in the communist bloc favored the production of heavy goods over consumer goods. As industrialism spread through Eastern Europe, more families engaged in sports activities and movie and television viewing. By the 1960s, cultural exchanges with the West gave Soviet citizens some contact with Western media and ways of life. An emphasis on sports programs made Soviet athletes intense competitors in the Olympic games.

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