Imagining the Fifties: Private Sentiment and Political Culture in Menzies' Australia

By John Murphy | Go to book overview

8
An unreliable boom

Economic turbulence became intermingled with the political crises of the Cold War and would continue to do so until 1954. The economic crisis of the early 1950s consisted of extremely high inflation brought on by post-war shortages and booming wool prices, compounded by a balance of payments crisis, and a short-lived recession made worse by Treasurer Fadden's 'horror budget' of September 1951. At the time, all this was widely feared as the prelude to depression, and reinforced gloomy expectations after the war. Many worried that the experience that followed the First World War, of economic crises and then the Depression, was about to be repeated. In the hearts and minds of ordinary Australians, as well as in the realms of policymaking, these crises undermined the hopes of post-war prosperity; and for a time they threatened the stability of the new Menzies government.

These economic crises can be difficult to recapture. The fabled 'postwar boom' has, in popular imaginings, taken on the homogeneous and placid shape of a perpetually upward curve and obscured the experience of the first decade after 1945. Hugh Mackay's account, based on contemporary interviews, evens out this instability into:

the boom years following the end of World War II [which] involved much more than an economic miracle . . . They remember the 1940s and early 1950s as a time of bracing optimism, a time when it really looked as though that utopian dream [of a new social order] might come true.

This was written in the context of an argument that the worst anticipations of a post-war depression had not eventuated, but also illustrates how recollection can level the past into simple strong narratives--for the post-war

-105-

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Imagining the Fifties: Private Sentiment and Political Culture in Menzies' Australia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Part III - Discontents *
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations viii
  • List of Figures and Tables ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Interiors 11
  • 1 - The Pursuit Of Private Happiness 13
  • 2 - Manhood 31
  • 3 - Womanhood 42
  • 4 - Intimacy 55
  • 5 - The Australian Way of Life 66
  • Part II - P0litics 79
  • 6 - The Rewards Of the Good Citizen 81
  • 7 - 'A War-Haunted World' 91
  • 8 - An Unreliable Boom 105
  • 9 - The Petrov Election 121
  • 10 - The Meanings of Home 136
  • Part III - Discontents 147
  • 11 - Immigration and Assimilation 149
  • 12 - 'Dog Licences' And Indigenous Citizens 168
  • 13 - 'Pledging the Future' 185
  • 14 - The Housewife and the Man In the Grey Flannel Suit 199
  • Conclusion 217
  • Notes 223
  • Index 256
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