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"No Commodity Is Quite So Strange As This Thing Called Cultural Exchange": The Foreign Politics of American Pop Culture Hegemony

Reinhold Wagnleitner
Amerikastudien / American Studies
Vol. 46, No. 3, Popular Culture (2001), pp. 443-470
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41157668
Page Count: 28
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
"No Commodity Is Quite So Strange As This Thing Called Cultural Exchange": The Foreign Politics of American Pop Culture Hegemony
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Abstract

American popular culture turned the Cold War into a Cool War. Its enormous attractions and contradictions played an enormous role during this global conflagration. If we want to understand the allure of Western democracy in Europe then the immense contribution of American popular culture must not be ignored. However important the military power and political promise of the United States were for setting the foundation for American successes in Cold War Europe, it was the American economic and cultural attraction that really won over the hearts and minds of the majorities of young people for Western democracy. In 1945, more than ever before, the United States signified the codes of modernity and promised the pursuit of happiness in its most up-dated version, as the pursuit of consumption. Whenever real consumption climbed into the ring, chances were high that real socialism had to be counted out. The hegemony of American popular culture exists, but it is a hegemony by invitation at least as much as it is one of subjugation (and self-colonization). The American Century was as much the century of the global attraction of the Sound of Freedom and Hollywood as that of Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and Pennsylvania Avenue. It is, however, extremely ironic that most of the artists who created the "Sound of Freedom" and won so many sympathies for the United States, were not only branded un-American at home but experienced a system of apartheid for most parts of the American Century within their own society.

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