How does the concept of coca-colonisation illustrate the Franco-American relationship during the Cold War era?

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"Coca-Colonization" is used to describe the spread of American material culture throughout the world, beginning with Western Europe, in the aftermath of World War II. Historian Reinhold Wagnleitner, who grew up in Austria during this period, describes it as "cultural imperialism." With the outbreak of the Cold War, an essentially...

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"Coca-Colonization" is used to describe the spread of American material culture throughout the world, beginning with Western Europe, in the aftermath of World War II. Historian Reinhold Wagnleitner, who grew up in Austria during this period, describes it as "cultural imperialism." With the outbreak of the Cold War, an essentially ideological conflict, American leaders were conscious that American consumer goods could be used to illustrate the differences between the American way of life and the lifestyle associated with Soviet-style communism. So during this period, as American investment capital poured into Western Europe, American companies flooded the region with the candy bars, cigarettes, movies, clothing, music, and other things that were being mass-produced and mass-marketed in the United States. Coca-Cola, of course, was a quintessential American brand, and it became ubiquitous in Western Europe. For this reason, the phenomenon of American products flooding European markets was named for the popular soda.

As for what the issue of Coca-colonization can tell us about Franco-American relations, the answer is complex. Basically, many people in France were opposed to the phenomenon. These included, in a particularly odd coalition, French communists opposed to what they saw as American attempts to "buy" Western Europe by flooding it with commercial goods, and French conservatives who saw American goods, and American culture in general, as crude and crass, a threat to traditional French culture. This illustrates a fundamental ambivalence that transcended cultural and economic concerns. On the one hand, France wished to restrain the spread of communism, which they saw as a threat. They were for this reason a crucial American ally. On the other, French nationalists, particularly long-time President Charles De Gaulle, were uneasy with the NATO alliance, believing it a infringement on their own sovereignty. For this reason, France actually temporarily and partially left NATO in the early 1960s. More than any other Western European nation, France had a close but ambivalent relationship with the United States, and resistance to "coca-colonization" is nicely illustrative of this.

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