Coca-Colonization and the Cold War: The Cultural Mission of the United States in Austria after the Second World War

By Reinhold Wagnleitner; Diana M. Wolf | Go to book overview

Introduction

Black people have always been used as a buffer in this country between powers to prevent class war, to prevent other kinds of real conflagrations. . . . If there were no black people here in this country, it would have been Balkanized. The immigrants would have torn each other's throats out, as they have done everywhere else. But in becoming an American, from Europe, what one has in common with that other immigrant is contempt for me--it's nothing else but color. Wherever they were from they would stand together. They could all say, "I am not that.". . . So in that sense, becoming an American is based on an attitude: an exclusion of me.

-- Bobbie Angelo, "Interview with Toni Morrison", Time, May 22, 1989

You will probably wonder why I begin a book about the cultural influence of the United States in Austria with this unsettling statement by the African-American author Toni Morrison. I might as well start with the moment of disbelief when I finally realized that the Soviet Union would be a thing of the past. That moment came in late 1989, when the spokesman of former president Michael Gorbachev was asked by journalists how the Soviet government would react if the Baltic States attempted to break away and Gennadi Gerassimov replied, "The days of the Brezhnev Doctrine are over. We now follow the Frank Sinatra Doctrine: I'll do it my way."

Those Europeans who complain about the Americanization of their continent were surely happy to see that the Donald Duck party only won 175 votes in Sweden's parliamentary election in 1982. But what should we say about an Austrian right-wing farmers' demonstration against the agricultural policies of the Socialists in 1986, where banners proclaimed, "More Power to the Bauer"? Was I sitting in a time machine of the global village when I saw the Soviet leadership watch an acrobatic rock 'n' roll parade at the May Day celebrations of May 1, 1989?

Actually, it should not be disputed that in dealing with the global success of U.S. culture, we are talking about one of the most important chapters of history in this century. This development is particularly interesting because we are talking not only about a cultural process in a narrow sense but also about an economic and eminently political phenomenon, namely, the phenomenon of symbolic power, the power over cultural capital. By no means did these products of U.S. culture automatically penetrate foreign countries. To be sure, we must understand the United States as the original version of modernity, whereas

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