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Americanism&antiamericanism.docx

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Department
German
Course
GER 100
Professor
Paul Malone
Semester
Fall

Description
1 October 2012 Americanism & Anti-Americanism “It can be useful to try and draw out differences between ‘German culture’ and ‘American culture’ or ‘American values.’ But at the same time it is important to acknowledge that such concepts are not just contested between nations, for example the United States and Germany, but within nations as well.” “More often than not, ‘Americanization’ carries a negative connotation. It is frequently being used as a metaphor for a variety of different phenomena. They include materialism and material prosperity, mass culture or the cheapening of ‘high’ culture, convenience, reliance on technology, social mobility, political equality, and social egalitarianism. Sometimes ‘Americanization’ may simply imply modernism and social, political, or economic progress.” “If the traditional German anti-Americanism that focused on economics has subsided, so too has the accompanying critique of America’s lack of culture, education, and emotional and spiritual depth. Kultur, Bildung (education of class, not formal), and patriarchy are no longer the self-proclaimed distinguishing characteristics of Germany. For much of the twentieth century, German anti-Americanism attacked American mass culture. From Weimar through the Nazi era and into the long 1950s, Hollywood films, jazz, and later rock ’n’ roll were the objects of particular vituperation (shit-talking/contempt/ condemnation), even as they were avidly, if not always legally, consumed.” “Frequently, assessments of the impact of American culture abroad employ the term ‘Americanization.’ Although what constitutes ‘American culture,’ ‘American values,’ or ‘Americanization’ has been highly contested, two main interpretive paradigms have emerged to make sense of U.S. foreign cultural relations.’” “The ‘modernization paradigm’ links American culture to economic development and political democratization and presents Americanization as a process by which the United States, through its political, economic, and cultural presence, manages the development of liberal democracies, market economies, and consumer cultures abroad. Constructed in the postwar period, this paradigm builds on a firm belief in the American superiority over totalitarianism, over both the fascist losers of World War II and Cold War enemies.” “The experiences of postwar Western European countries and especially the democratization and growing wealth of West Germany seem to confirm that U.S. power abroad brings peace, progress, and prosperity. Crudely put, this paradigm, which has shaped much scholarship on post-World War II Europe, posits the existence of an American culture that reflects and transports a uniform, democratic American value system.” “The political right supported close political, economic, and military ties with the United States. Culture, however, was one area where conservatives resented and resisted U.S. influence. Cultural anti- Americanism has a number of causes. Some deal with taste, others more likely with the defense of established social positions. America was the ‘utopia of the common man.’ This meant, in the words of Hanna Arendt, that it became, ‘a nightmare for the rich middle class, the aristocracy, and certain types of intellectuals who regarded equality as a threat rather than a promise of liberation.’” 1 October 2012 “Conservative observers were dismayed to see traditional class lines blurred when middle class youth dressed and behaved in a manner commonly associated with the working class… Clearly the class consciousness of the bourgeoisie was offended when its young men aped the ways of their social inferiors. What would have been tolerable behavior among young workers was intolerable for the sons of the middle class.” Halbstarken: Hooligans  1950’s young people in the post-war era who looked at American culture and fashion of rebelling were fascinating. o Jeans or “American-style pants” were seen as provocative o Scooters or motorcycles were cool due to marlon Brando’s movie “Wild Ones”:  “What are you rebelling against?” “What do you got?” o Switzerland’s style was especially provocative, almost obscene (e.g. bullets, horseshoes, big belts, Elvis graphics); like a sexual predator Cultural Imperialism “A second paradigm that, of ‘cultural imperialism,’ has told almost the reverse story… The notion of an American cultural imperialism proliferated east of the Iron Curtain with the advent of the Cold War. It gained currency in the West only in the late 1960s. In the wake of the Vietnam War, leftists and members of the countercultures in the United States and abroad began to criticize U.S. foreign policy and pointed to American culture as one of its imperialist tools. The cultural imperialism paradigm tells a story of manipulation and decline and mourns the disappearance of diversity.” “Germany has experienced many variants of modernity in the twentieth century—the classical modernity of the late Empire and Weimar, fascist modernity, the socialist modernity of the GDR, and the Americanized modernity of the Cold War Federal Republic. This latter most Americanized form of modernity has diverged markedly in recent
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