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
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9
The Result: The Children of Schmal(t)z and Coca-Cola

In a consumer society, the language and meaning of objects are fused with those of the market-place.

-- Stuart Ewen and Elizabeth Ewen, Channels of Desire ( 1982)

On the way back [from Innsbruck] I taught the Soviet general how to chew gum which he did with much gnashing and uneasy chomping. The Soviets have no idea of it at all.

-- Guirey to Santford ( 1946)

To refer to Austria, the land on the stream according to the national anthem, as a streamlined land in the 1950s may seem somewhat exaggerated when one takes into consideration the typical resistance toward all innovation unique to this country. Nevertheless, the influence of that which is generally described as "American" culture was so vast that an anthropologist would have good reason to say that the United States had unleashed a new form of the Monroe Doctrine, namely, of the Marilyn MonroeDoctrine. The period of occupation may have perhaps opened great possibilities for the victorious powers, yet only the United States could exploit this situation to its fullest. On the one hand, it could build upon the old European dream of U.S. democracy as a way of life that secured a standard of living for the masses; on the other hand, the United States alone possessed the necessary financial means to organize a comprehensive cultural program that embraced all facets of life.1

Between 1945 and 1955, the U.S. authorities in Austria and the Austrians themselves set the course for trends that would completely unfold only after the end of the 195os. However, in certain areas of industrial culture and in the consciousness industry, some of those developments had already become apparent during the interwar period.

The hundreds of thousands of GIs, those "vaccinated Crusaders" (in the words of Wolfgang Koeppen), were living examples of America's abundance and its way of life, which the Austrian populace could study and, in many cases, learn to love (the last phrase is by no means directed against the so-called chocolate girls). U.S. authorities, in addition, had prepared a powerful cultural agency of the U.S. Army--the ISB. Its mission was simple--the most positive presentation of all that was "American"--and its impact was invaluable.

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