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Whither the Self-Made Man? Comic Culture and the Crisis of Legitimation in the United States

In this article I trace shifts in the occupational worldview, and thereby in the myth of the self-made man as a legtimator of class in the United States, as reflected in the American comic strip from 1925 to 1975. In so doing, I investigate not only the crisis of meaning which some now see as... Full description

1st Person: Kasen, Jill H.
Source: in Social problems : official journal of the Society for the Study of Social Problems Vol. 28, No. 2 (1980), p. 131-148
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Type of Publication: Article
Language: English
Published: 1980
Keywords: research-article
Online: Volltext
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520 |a In this article I trace shifts in the occupational worldview, and thereby in the myth of the self-made man as a legtimator of class in the United States, as reflected in the American comic strip from 1925 to 1975. In so doing, I investigate not only the crisis of meaning which some now see as increasingly characteristic of all capitalist societies, but also the use and adaptation of this legitimation complex in previous eras of American history. First the self-made man, then the professional, and finally the employee captured the comic stage during the half-century, serving respectively as symbols of promise, security and despair. From an entrepreneurial reality which held out the reward of superiority, strip society became a land of equality and tempted its residents with an initially salubrious but later ill-fated fortune. The world which the self-made man finally produced no longer emphasized the myth of such a man, relying instead upon the notion of middle class/essness. Despite the malaise which currently afflicts American society, middle classlessness (though perhaps in a somewhat altered form) is likely to be the basic legitimator of the American class system for the near future, attended as it is by an individualistic, pluralistic, democratic and egalitarian ethos. 
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