The Socialist Sixties: Crossing Borders in the Second World

By Anne E. Gorsuch; Diane P. Koenker | Go to book overview

10 The Politics of Privatization
Television Entertainment
and the Yugoslav Sixties

Sabina Mihelj

ONE OF THE key dilemmas in scholarly debates about the sixties concerns the relationship between political contestation and culture. Were the struggles of the sixties primarily political, or should we rather see them, as Arthur Marwick suggests, as part and parcel of a “cultural revolution” whose impact went well beyond the realm of politics?1 As the editors of a recent themed issue dedicated to the international 1968 put it: Did cultural change “merely [provide] the background for the political upheavals of the Sixties,” or did it define “the very essence of this contentious period”?2 Rather than opt for an account that gives greater prominence to either one or the other, this chapter approaches the sixties as a period during which the nature of politics itself, along with its link to culture, underwent a profound transformation. Both east and west of the Iron Curtain, long-established fault lines of political struggle, tied to the alternative visions of modernity espoused by communism, liberalism, and fascism, gave way to issues of living standards and social welfare, as well as to dilemmas of family relations, racial segregation, and youth culture—all issues traditionally on the margins of political debate, or considered parts of the private sphere and culture rather than politics proper. The venues and forms of political communication changed as well. As political contestation shifted to the realm of the private and the everyday, political struggle was increasingly waged through objects, symbols, and genres of popular culture and everyday life.

Nothing perhaps illustrates this shift better than the iconic “kitchen debate” between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev at the American National Exhibition in Moscow in 1959. During a series of impromptu exchanges that took place at

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