Social, Political, Economic and Cultural Effects of World War I and II


The First and the Second World Wars have had a devastating effect on many countries and nations. Yet the effects caused by each War were different. Moreover, the fields in which the effects resided were also different. Still, mainly, the areas were similar for each War: industry, economy, culture, and mentality of the people. However, the wars didn’t have an equal effect on each field. While the First World War brought some countries to an economic crisis and severely damaged their industrial capabilities, the Second World War united several nations under a common goal of defeating the adversary and later rebuilding the scorched lands. Despite the fact that wars result in hardships and losses, they are in a way the catalyst that humankind requires to progress and to improve.

The Effects of World Wars

Some of the outcomes of a certain War can be rather unpredicted. While it is only natural that there will be a grudge between some participants of war, the levels of such grudge can sometimes be astonishing. One of the results of the U.S. fighting against Germany was hostility towards Germans and their culture. A study by Fouka shows that “The growing anti-Germanism of the early war years, which was further agitated by the insistence of the German-American press on strict American neutrality, found its expression in a series of both spontaneous and organized acts of harassment and persecution once the United States entered the war in 1917” (8). The hatred towards the German nation then resulted in the prohibition of the German language in U.S. schools. The Second World War further heated the alienation of the German nation in the U.S. The simple conclusion follows: while some countries may participate in a war without further confrontation, other countries will have to defend themselves even after a war has ended for a variety of reasons.

The Second World War resulted in an industrial and military growth of the U.S. and the Soviet Union. This was mainly because both countries anticipated a new war, while also suffering from the repercussions of the World War II. According to research by Walker, the amount of money spent on defense by the U.S. increased in varying degrees in the period from 1940 to 1990 (6). The decrease in a number of the resources spent has only started to take effect since 1991 after the Soviet Union collapsed. Thus, one can see that war changes the mindset of the sides that participate in it.

The Soviet Union was formed after the First World War by the people of Russian Empire that were united with a purpose of overthrowing the regime. At the same time, the Americans were still at war on an emotional level. As reported by Kuznick and Gilbert they were beginning to see a new enemy in the newly-formed Soviet Union (24). This led to the fixation of the hostile attitude towards the Soviet Union. Such perspective only grew more robust after the Second World War which resulted in many political and cultural shifts. Germany was still seen as an enemy to any nation that waged war against Fascism, while the Soviet Union became a supposed threat to every country that was not united with it.

At the same time, the research by Kesternich et al. displays the impact that the War has on the perception of one’s self and health, as well as the impact on the health itself. The Kesternich’s article concludes that “experiencing war increased the probability of suffering from diabetes, depression, and with less certainty heart disease so that those experiencing war or combat have significantly lower self-rated health as adults. Experiencing war is also associated with less education and life satisfaction, and decreases the probability of ever being married for women, while increasing it for men” (16). With such profound changes that occur as a result of a war experience, it is easy to claim that the whole generation that underwent the Second World War was traumatized in different ways.

However, with the strife that resulted from war came the trend of increasing tolerance and humanity. The book by Herwig describes the history of Germany and Austria-Hungary during 1914-1918 and the destitutions those countries had to endure during the First World War and after it (269-307). Oppression and no-tolerance policy of the early twentieth century did not only affect the humanity on a global scale. It also inspired people to stand for human rights and a greater good. An article by Johnson describes the morality and leadership of Dietrich Bonhoeffer during Hitler’s rule. It is concluded in Johnson’s paper that the influence of this man lingers and guides Christians across the world even now (16). Thus, one can see that the need to overcome and endure provides humankind with the tools that are necessary to make the world a better place to live and, furthermore, to improve themselves as a community.


The First World War and the Second World War had a very different outcome. While the former resulted mainly in a significant number of casualties, general depression, and regress, the latter pushed human race further. The Second World War led to the opening of the Space Program, technological revolution, and a great increase in the overall living conditions. Therefore, war can not only have an adverse effect in the global perspective. It will always be a catalyst for some changes. There is no guarantee that the changes will be mostly positive, but they will most likely not be only negative. Summing up, it is safe to say that both World War I and World War II had a variety of effects in different fields: political, cultural, and social. Moreover, those results differed from disastrous to incredible.

Works Cited

Fouka, Vasiliki. Backlash: The Unintended Effects of Language Prohibition in US Schools after World War I. 2017.

Herwig, Holger. The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918. Bloomsbury, 2014.

Johnson, Samuel. Dietrich Bonhoeffer as Moral Leader During the Holocaust in Germany. 2017. Web.

Kesternich, et al. “The Effects of World War II on Economic and Health Outcomes across Europe.” The Review of Economics and Statistics, vol. 96, no. 1, Rev Econ Stat., 2014, pp. 103-118.

Kuznick, Peter, and James Gilbert. Rethinking Cold War Culture. Smithsonian Books, 2013.

Walker, Dinah. “Trends in U.S. Military Spending.” Council on Foreign Relations, 2013, Web.