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

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

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

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

Synopsis

Reinhold Wagnleitner argues that cultural propaganda played an enormous part in integrating Austrians and other Europeans into the American sphere during the Cold War. In Coca-Colonization and the Cold War, he shows that 'Americanization' was the result not only of market forces and consumerism but also of systematic planning on the part of the United States.

Wagnleitner traces the intimate relationship between the political and economic reconstruction of a democratic Austria and the parallel process of cultural assimilation. Initially, U. S. cultural programs had been developed to impress Europeans with the achievements of American high culture. However, popular culture was more readily accepted, at least among the young, who were the primary target group of the propaganda campaign. The prevalence of Coca-Cola and rock 'n' roll are just two examples addressed by Wagnleitner. Soon, the cultural hegemony of the United States became visible in nearly all quarters of Austrian life: the press, advertising, comics, literature, education, radio, music, theater, and fashion. Hollywood proved particularly effective in spreading American cultural ideals. For Europeans, says Wagnleitner, the result was a second discovery of America.

This book is a translation of the Austrian edition, published in 1991, which won the Ludwig Jedlicka Memorial Prize.

Excerpt

We only have to teach German kids how to play baseball-- then they'll understand the meaning of democracy.

--An American general in Berlin, autumn 1945

When I was born in Upper Austria in 1949, Mauerkirchen was a small, sleepy market town--but it was also situated in the American occupation zone of Austria. Although during the period of occupation, 1945-55, the U.S. Army was barely visible in our part of the woods, we children religiously waited for the best action of the year: the annual U.S. Army maneuvers and our rations of chewing gum.

For us, the horrors of the Second World War were in the distant past, but still they were everywhere. Our everyday experience included quite a few mutilated men, and for the nicer ones we picked up cigarette butts from the streets. It seemed absolutely normal that most men and many women looked old and tired--and not only because we were children and they wore dark clothes. But what a contrast when we saw pictures of GIs or, even better, met "the real thing." Somehow, they clashed with our images of soldiers. They looked young and healthy. Contrasted to our poverty, they seemed incredibly rich, and many were generous to us kids. of course, their casualness and loudness were proverbial--but we admired them precisely for that.

Although most families with a Nazi past repressed and hid this past from the children, the war remained everywhere--and we did not need a war memorial to be reminded of the many ghosts roaming our streets. Unspoken Nazi-past or not, it was clear that most adults objected to those crass boys from across the Atlantic. "We" had indeed lost the war, but look at those uncultured American guys who chewed gum and put their feet on the table. (This, it seemed, was the utmost crime!) How could an army manned by such unmilitaristic, childish, and undisciplined boys (even blacks!) win a war, especially one against Germany! a few of us children, however, secretly suspected that an army advancing to the rhythm of swing music deserved to win the war. It did not help our elders to warn us that if we chewed gum we would look like Americans: that was exactly what we wanted to look like!

In my family, I was spared this routine of Austrian cultural superiority versus American cultural inferiority mostly for two reasons. First, my parents and grandparents had not been Nazis, and my mother loved American music . . .

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