An Introduction to American Life and Culture in 2013

American Life and Culture

(Photo Credit: Neighborhood Love)

America is the most exceptional nation in the world.  This country continues to become more diverse: people across the world live in this nation.  From its inception, America has been a nation of immigrants and that tradition continues.  This is the only county where you can be the son of a former slave and become the President of the United States.  The diverse people from all parts of the world who live in America are responsible for diverse nature of American life and culture.

Making money seems to consume the thoughts, practices, and activities of most Americans in 2013.  Even when people are attempting to engage in activities that are creative, most of them strive to connect their innovative acts to ways to make a profit.  Any effort to introduce American life and culture in 2013, therefore, has to offer an understanding of the increasing power and importance of capitalism.

A close examination of American popular culture helps to illuminate what American life and culture is like in 2013.  When we examine television during this particular time, one finds a significant amount of variety.  One has an opportunity to witness things that are crass, such as Love & Hip Hop Atlanta and The Real Housewives of Atlanta, to valuable shows, such as Mad Men and Scandal.

Unfortunately, the federal government has not increased support for the arts, but average Americans have found innovative ways to keep engagement in the arts alive and well.  At higher education institutions across the nation, one can see how we have some of the greatest people involved in the arts than at any period of time in American history.

We have grown too divided as a nation.  We think in terms of “red states” and “blue states” and not simply the United States.  Our state and national elected officials have caused too many Americans to have a next election mindset, and this has led to numerous things not getting done.

One tremendously positive aspect about American life and culture in 2013 is there’s a burgeoning longing for innovation.  Although this longing for innovation is heavily centered on the profit motive, there’s hope that we can start thinking more about innovation outside of a capitalistic logic.  At this time, it’s becoming more difficult to differentiate creativity and capitalism.  There was a time in America when there were more artists who created things for the pure love of their craft.  Too many artists now are concerned about producing commodities—not art.  When we look at some current films, we see how they play into the profit motive by being imitations of events and people, such as White House Down, instead of striving to develop novel alternatives to the current way people behave and think in 2013.

While America is the most exceptional nation on the planet, American life and culture needs to discontinue being so self-indulgent and money focused.  With such diverse people in America, one has to remain hopeful about the potential innovations that can emerge.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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