Eight photos showing death of ‘the American Dream’

“Sadly, the American Dream is dead,” Donald Trump told an audience of supporters when he announced his bid for the US presidency in 2015. “But if I get elected president, I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before.”

As the US elections of 2024 draw nearer, the American Dream is back on the agenda, with President Biden also promising to restore it, stating in a speech in November 2023 that “Bidenomics is just another way of saying ‘the American Dream’.” 

First mentioned in print in the book The Epic of America (1931) by the US historian and businessman James Truslow Adams, the American Dream has become synonymous with social mobility and self-gain, and began, he wrote, as “a dream of a social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable”. With the 2020 Global Social Mobility Report ranking the US 27th in the world, the aspirations of the previous century might appear to be in tatters.

Today, the concept has found form in a range of extraordinary images, many brought together in Suburbia – Building the American Dream, a new exhibition at Barcelona’s Centre of Contemporary Culture (CCCB) that explores, museum director Judit Carrera tells the BBC, the “cultural history of the American suburbs” and “how architecture has implications that go beyond aesthetics”.

As US marines returned from World War Two, eager to settle down with their sweethearts, the American Dream of a family home far from the crowded tenements that characterised much of city living embedded itself in the national consciousness, aided by state propaganda campaigns promoting home ownership.

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