From World War to Waldheim: Culture and Politics in Austria and the United States

From World War to Waldheim: Culture and Politics in Austria and the United States

From World War to Waldheim: Culture and Politics in Austria and the United States

From World War to Waldheim: Culture and Politics in Austria and the United States

Synopsis

The growing internationalization of the world poses a fundamental question, i.e., through what mechanisms does culture diffuse across political boundaries and what is the role of politics in shaping this diffusion? This volume offers some answers through the case study of the relationship between two quite different states during the Cold War era - Austria, a small neutral country, and the United States, the reigning superpower. The authors challenge naive notions of cultural diffusion that posit the submission of small "peripheral" areas to the dictates of hegemonic powers at the "core. Americanization" has no doubt taken place since 1945; however, local forces crucially shaped this process, and Austrian elites enjoyed considerable leeway in pursuing "Austrian" political objectives. On the other hand, with the expulsion of Vienna's cultural and intellectual elite after the Anschlu, the United States, more than any othercountry, became heir to the rich cultural legacy of "Vienna 1900," which profoundly shaped politics and culture in both its "high" and popular forms in postwar America. The relationship climaxed and came full circle with the unfolding of the Waldheim affair, which forced Americans and Austrians to reinterpret the meaning of the Nazi era for their own history in a confrontation with the "other."

David F. Good is Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, where he was also the Director of the Center for Austrian Studies until 1996. He has been Honorary Professor of Economic History at the University of Vienna and received the Austrian Medal for Arts and Sciences, First Class, in 1995. Ruth Wodak is Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Vienna.

Excerpt

The essays in this volume have their origin in a symposium, "A Small State in the Shadow of a Superpower: Austria and the United States since 1945," which was organized by the Center for Austrian Studies and held at the University of Minnesota in November 1994. This event was preceded by two other symposia that also adopted a small-state perspective in examining key issues relating to cold-war Europe: "The End of the Cold War: Security Policy in Austria, Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland" in fall 1992 and "The End of the Cold War: European Reintegration and Institution-Building in Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, and Hungary" in fall 1993. Established in 1977 with the generous gift of one million dollars from the Austrian people on the occasion of America's bicentennial, the Center for Austrian Studies serves as a focal point for the study of Austria in its wider geographical and intellectual setting. By transcending the narrow boundaries of present-day Austria, these three symposia typify the strategy used by the Center to pursue its mission as an international, interdisciplinary institution.

Coming just before the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, the fall 1994 symposium offered an occasion to reflect on the legacy left by the bipolar system of international relations that defined the cold-war era. By adopting a small-state perspective, the papers that were presented at the symposium showed how the power of the United States was at once profound and limited and how the dependency of Austria still permitted considerable leeway for independent action. in addition, the papers provided valuable insights into the mechanisms through which culture is transferred across political boundaries and the role of politics in shaping this transfer.

We asked participants to revise and expand their conference papers with these perspectives in mind. the resulting volume presents an interdisciplinary look at how power and forms of cultural representation interacted in the context of Austrian-American relations during the cold war. Taken as a whole, the contributions challenge naive notions of cultural imperialism . . .

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