American Dream Research Paper

The American Dream. Can It Survive In The 21st Century?


The majority of people like to dream. What is more, they are addicted to dreaming because planning the future makes people feel safer and more satisfied with their lives. Needless to say that not all of these dreams are fulfilled or at least are intended to be fulfilled by some relevant action. It should be noted that no criticism of human essence’s drawbacks is implied. To be more exact, such dreams are so sophisticated that they are nearly impossible to fulfil in a real life. Nowadays, it becomes more evident that so-called American dream belongs to such sort of dreams, which are hardly achievable. However, it is to be said that every single individual gives his or her own meaning to the American dream. That is why issues about it remain to be controversial even nowadays. Therefore, all expectations, which concern the American dream, are intended to distinguish whether the American dream will survive in the 21st century.

Taking this into consideration, it is to be admitted that the American dream has a lot of meanings so that for some groups of people it can be fulfilled while for the others it is far from being embodied in real life. Thus, it is necessary to outline that the main argument of the “survival” of the American dream means its feasibility for any person, who makes an effort to achieve this goal. Hence, in order to trace the development of the American dream’s idea, the historic background of it has to be described. As a matter of fact, political aspect of the American dream has to be discussed, as well. In consequence, economic views and impacts of the American dream are also important because the national wealth is one of the indicators of the national prosperity. Doubtless, with regard to the previous aspects, the social aspect of the American dream should be discussed. Finally, taking all outcomes into account, certain predictions are to be made.

Definition of the American Dream

For starters, it is necessary to distinguish the meaning of the term “American dream”. As it was mentioned before, it does not have a particular definition. Thus, this fact can be regarded as a proof that the American dream is quite vague or even totally irrelevant.

On the other hand, it implies the fact that the American dream is so deep and wide that anyone is able to achieve what he or she is intended to. Thus, as James Truslow Adams suggested, the American dream is the dream of land, in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity according to ability or achievement” (Jischke 75). In the other words, such definition describes the American dream not as a national wealth but as a social improvement, which offers people their personal positions in the society in accordance with their efforts and achievements. On the contrary, the World English Dictionary defines it to a broader extent: The American dream is the notion that  the American social, economic and political system makes success possible for every individual ( Putting these two definitions together, it is to be admitted that the American dream can be regarded as a personal success, which can be achieved through political, economic and social systems. Therefore, it is possible to say that feasibility of the American dream in the 21st century should be measured with correlation between personal desires of the average U.S. citizen and social, political and economic opportunities, which any individual is able to access. That is why it is necessary to take into consideration historic, political, economic and social sides of the American dream.

Historic Background

Speaking about historic roots of the American dream, it is to be admitted that it dates back to the practice of American Puritanism. In fact, Puritans were regarded as extremely immoral people, which have no respect to common social values and tolerances. As a consequence, the roots of American dream were growing from the social and philosophical reaction to Puritanism. To be more exact, American society did not hate the idea of “someone being more pure than others” but disapprove the statement that “someone regards himself or herself as a pure individual” (Cullen 14). As a result, American society started working on the idea of the American dream, which was expected to impress the entire world with its extreme tolerance and democratic spirits. However, it should be noted that Puritanism kept focusing on a particular dream, as well. It also was aimed at the achievement of prosperity and social success. Therefore, it is possible to say that the concept of the American dream was similar to Puritanism in some way.

What is more, Puritanism was emphasizing the notion that one’s children might have a better life. Thus, it means that Puritanism is one of the constituent components of the American dream’s concept. Taking this into account, it is to be said that it may be the basic problem of the American dream. To be more exact, the American dream actually suggests opposite values to those, which have been primarily designed. As a consequence, the American dream has been developed as the idea of the unique prosperity. In the other words, those people, who do not want to follow the American dream, will not be successful. Therefore, America proclaimed a “monopoly on life success”. As a result, the phenomenon of double standards appeared: In case something does not coincide with the U.S. interests but meets the same objectives, it will be regarded as wrong or irrelevant decision or action.

Economic Aspect

Speaking about economic aspect of the American Dream, it is necessary to say that the economy is actually the basic source for claiming. The American Dream is desirable by everyone. In the other words, this doctrine admits that social prosperity and success are not the only results of thriving democracy but of highly developed economy, as well. In fact, such statement does not work on practice, especially with working class. First of all, it is necessary to say that so-called labor movement of socialistic revolution was not as strong as in Europe. To broader extent, American working class failed to achieve such economic and social confidence as European proletarians. In fact, the American Dream offered irrelevant benefits, which can be achieved in the sphere of agriculture, private ownership and national capital of America (Davis 4). Needless to say that it does not have anything to do with benefits for working class.

Taking this into consideration, it is to be admitted that this fact actually proves that the American Dream is feasible not for everyone. To broader extent, the American Dream initially supports capitalists. It gives all freedoms for private ownership and trading so that single individuals are able to make profits without sharing anything with the society because the American Dream presupposes the government not to be involved in someone’s private business. Therefore, it is possible to say that all democratic opportunities are aimed at the development of capitalism, which can be hardly referred to the working class. Consequently, average people who belong to the working class do not have opportunities to achieve a success due to economic and democratic values of the United States.

Political Aspect

As a consequence, it is necessary to discuss the political aspect of the American Dream. To be more exact, political terms of the American Dream have to be distinguished. As a result, as the recent evidences show, the majority of political leaders ranging from Barack Obama to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Clinton, talk publically about the American Dream in order to achieve the emotional satisfaction of the people. It can be explained by the fact that the American Dream is appealing to the majority of the Americans. What is more, as a research by Cyril Gosh suggests, striving for the American Dream has been empowered during recent fifty years (41). However, it is to be noted that only Barack Obama can be considered as a political leader, who is potentially able to embody the American Dream. Therefore, it means that the American Dream is possible to survive in terms of the current politics. Thus, it is necessary to discuss how it can be possible.

To begin with, it should be said that by talking about the American Dream, political leaders are supposed to outline distinct reforms and changes in the economy and social development so that every single American citizen clearly understands in what direction he or she should work in order to achieve prosperity. What is more, the entire strategy of the American Dream has to be reinforced: the society should make individual successful instead of individuals rendering the national prosperity. As it has been discussed in a previous section, the working class has to be paid a special attention because it has many obstacles for accessing the American Dream. Taking this into account, it is necessary to evaluate the social positions concerning the further development of the American Dream.

Social Aspect

Regarding a social aspect of the American Dream, it is necessary to understand a potential direction of the human society development. In the other words, a particular tendency has to be traced. Taking this into consideration, it is to be said that society actually expects the American Dream come true on its own. Therefore, it is possible to say that the modern society lacks aspiration. As Baid and Carver suggest, people do not need any aspiration because they are lacking a feeling of being involved (291). To the broadest extent, it is to be admitted that the majority of crucial actions are taken by the government or representatives of big business. Speaking about that in a more specific way, it should be said that as it has been discussed in previous sections, the working class is not paid any significant attention concerning the feasibility of the American Dream. Hence, from the perspective of the social development, the American Dream is not likely to survive because the modern society does not make any distinct efforts to do that.

Taking this into account, it is necessary to suggest that the government has to empower its citizens for the professional growth, getting high education and being involved in the common strive for a better future. To be more exact, salary policies have to be more democratic and standards of living are supposed to coincide with opportunities, which the average U.S. citizen can get from his or her occupation. All in all, the development of the society towards achievement of the American Dream can be directed. However, it is necessary to make overall and specific predictions about the American Dream’s survival in the 21st century.

Possible Predictions

Concerning the survival of the American Dream in the 21st century, it is to be said that first of all, the overall conditions and environments are supposed to be described in order to predict the possibility of the American Dream to keep developing in the 21st century. In general, the U.S. society feels quite satisfied with the American Dream, especially in cases, when the American Dream designates a unique national identity. On the contrary, the society does not behave proactively towards making the American Dream come true. In addition, it is also worth saying that the government promotes the idea of the American Dream to its citizens, but it should be noted that it just an advertising strategy, which is aimed at the attraction of the public eye. As a consequence, the society expects the government to make the American Dream come true for them while the government does not pay attention to the working class, which is actually not able to achieve the American Dream.

Considering this, it is to be said that the society is definitely aware of a possibility to make the American Dream come true, but it does not realize that it depends totally on the collective will (Hochschild & Scovroncik 168). Therefore, it is possible to predict that some segments of the U.S. society will feel discontent with the current state of the American Dream and will express their concerns publically. In case such movement receives a meaningful support, the government will react accordingly, because publically organized support of the American Dream is beneficial for the entire nation. First of all, the unemployment and crime rates will decrease, heavy industry will receive a sufficient human resource power and the U.S. culture will be comprised by a wide range of truly nationally identical features.

Speaking about the future of the American Dream in a more specific way, it should be noted that it is necessary to start with economic aspect, which is actually considered as the core element of the American Dream. Taking this into account, it is to be said that in these terms, the American Dream will not survive, as well as capitalism. In fact, the American Dream primarily concerns businessmen, who are free to trade and regulate supply and demand. Thus, the working class is regarded as the factor of production instead of being its owner. As a consequence, economic aspect of the American Dream will not satisfy the middle class of the U.S. citizens. In addition, it should be noted that the government actually does not take concerns of the middle class into consideration. In fact, as it was mentioned previously, it should be noted that the government is lending to offer the American Dream to its citizens but it does not consider that not everyone is able to achieve it. As a result, the society does not feel involved in the achievement of the national prosperity because it simply expects it to be obtained by the political leaders, who are actually not concerned about that (Johnson 101).

As for the political aspect of the American Dream, it will be changed only in correlation with the desire of the society. To be more exact, the government has to empower its citizens to take the actions for the achievement of the American Dream. On the other hand, the society should protest against the government, which does not give any opportunity for the middle class to obtain economic and social prosperity as the core outcome of the American Dream (Dana, Hipango & Smith 9).


Current paper primarily deals with the issue of the American Dream’s survival in the 21st century. At the beginning, the actual problem has been identified. To be more exact, the main concern can be described as a threat for the American Dream to become unreal so that it will be regarded as the false ideal, which does not have to be followed. Therefore, in terms of the modern tendencies the American Dream has been verified for its ability to be adjusted to the 21st century. Besides, it is also worth saying that the term “American Dream” is rather vague, that is why several definitions of it have been given. In general, the American Dream is a common prosperity of the U.S. society in democratic terms of economy, politics and social life. Taking this into account, the paper has discussed the idea of the American Dream from various perspectives.

First of all, the historical background has been identified. In fact, the American Dream appeared as a strong reaction to the American Puritanism. However, it should be admitted that the American Dream possesses have caused a strong resemblance with the opposing doctrine in many respects. What is more, such comparison has reviled that the American Dream is quite monopolistic ideal because it implicitly claims that those, who does not follow it, will not be successful. Then, the paper has discussed economic, political and social peculiarities of the American Dream. As a consequence, potential outcomes from the current conditions and the environment have been made. In conclusion, it is to be admitted that the American Dream is under the big threat but it is still possible to save it. However, it is necessary to combine efforts, actions and intentions of the society and the government of the United States.

Works Cited

  1. Baid, Eryn, and Charles S. Carver. “The American Dream Revisited: Is It What You Want or Why You Want It That Matters?” Psychological Science. July 1998: 289-292. Print. 
  2. Cullen, Jim. The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print.
  3. Dana, Leo-Paul, Hipango Waata, and Robert Smith. “Prohibition and the American Dream: An Analysis of the Entrepreneurial Life and Times of Al Capone.” International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business. 2 Dec. 2013: 1-15. Print. 
  4. Davis, Mike. Prisoners of the American Dream: Politics and Economy in the History of the U.S. Working Class. New York: Verso, 1999. Print.
  5. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 11 May. 2014
  6. Ghosh, Cyril. The Politics of the American Dream: Democratic Inclusion in Contemporary American Political Culture. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Print.
  7. Hochschild, Jennofer, L. and Nathan B. Scovoronick. The American Dream and Public Schools. New York: Oxford University press, 2003. Print. 
  8. Jischke, Martin. “The American Dream”. Vital Speeches of The Day Jul. 2007: 314-15. Print. 
  9. Johnson, Heather Beth. The American Dream and the Power of Wealth: Choosing Schools and Inheriting Inequality in the Land of Opportunity. New York: Taylor & Francis, LLC, 2006. Print.

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