Global America? The Cultural Consequences of Globalization

By Ulrich Beck; Natan Sznaider et al. | Go to book overview

Introduction
Natan Sznaider and Rainer Winter

‘Caution: objects in this mirror may be closer than they appear.’ This warning. appears at the beginning of Jean Baurillard's book America (1988: 1)—in its way, a type of travel journal, in which Baudrillard defines the USA as the centre of the world. In his opinion, the USA represents the first truly modern society, which, through radicalness and indifference, has become a model for the rest of the world, as it is for Europe. He analyses the shaping of everyday life by film and television, the central importance of surface and speed, the inspirational experience of the American landscape, in particular the emptiness of the deserts, and the cultural and social features of city life. This analysis leads him to diagnose the ‘death of the social’. Wim Wenders also reflects critically, after his travels in the US, on the American icons and myths and the threat of advertising and of Hollywood on experience and imagination. This can be seen in his films such as the road movie, Paris, Texas (1984). However, Wenders’ fascinating images of the landscape in the south-west USA and the cities of Los Angeles and Houston, as well as of the symbols of American popular culture, reveal the ambivalence of his views. Hence his views do not seem as pessimistic as Baudrillard's. While in his theoretical works Wenders warns of the colonization of fantasy by products of the American culture industry (Wenders 2001), Paris, Texas, as well as some of his other films, portrays American society as a complex and multifaceted phenomenon. Wenders has himself developed a cultural identity as a filmmaker through encounters with the image of America found in Hollywood. In addition, rock music made it possible for him to turn away from German postwar culture. Together with comics, John Ford films, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler novels, this music provided Wenders with the view of an imaginary America that positively shaped his own fantasies, wishes and

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