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

7
Drama and Music from the United States

And so our view of American influence on European music must really depend, in the last resort, on our attitude to the democratization of taste. Can a whole new educated public be aesthetically enfranchised without lowering aesthetic standards? If not, then American influence has been harmful, for it has already begun the scaling down of aesthetic values so as to be within the intellectual grasp of the average city dweller, beside whom Stendhal "average sensual man" would have seemed highly civilized. This is a revolution not merely in taste but in the very concept of taste . . . which will end, not with the debasement of taste, but with the disappearance of the word from our vocabulary.

-- Martin Cooper, "Revolution in Musical Taste" ( 1951)


The Theatre and Music Section

Certainly the most difficult duty of U.S. cultural diplomacy was the presentation of the artistic achievements of U.S. high culture in the most advantageous light. Particularly in this area, the observation is hardly exaggerated that Europeans were possessed by overwhelming negative clichés and prejudices toward the supposed cultural inferiority of the United States (according to the motto "Europe has culture, the United States has civilization"). These attitudes actually had led to the necessity of U.S. foreign cultural programs in the first place. The cultural efforts of the U.S. governments to impress the Europeans with the manifestations of American high culture via the mitigation of European cultural hybrids were an integral component of the political strategy to integrate Europe into "one world," the "Western world" of the Pax Americana. It is significant, however, that even many U.S. cultural diplomats had not removed themselves from Eurocentrism. They, too, thought in the stereotypical dimensions of the superiority of European culture--including its American form; they, too, could not withdraw themselves from the prejudices of the supposed superiority of "white" culture. This fact, in particular, certainly did not help the democratic legitimation of U.S. programs.

Although the programs of high culture, by definition, did not make a significant difference quantitatively, their qualitative potential was that much more important. Directed toward an "elite" target group, the products of high culture (at least officially) had traditionally been attributed greater value. The

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