The Americanization of Austria from a historical point of view and the power of the American image in Austrian advertisements

Seminar Paper, 2009
14 Pages, Grade: 1


The following seminar paper is concerned with the Americanization of Austria. In the beginning the most important historical stages and events with regards to U.S.American influence on Austria as well as an overview on the most important student exchange programs shall help gain a better understandig of the topic. The second part will focus on the the power and influence of U.S.American advertisements, whereas the the analysis of a print-medium advertisement will exemplify and support my theories and thoughts concerning this matter.

Even though the subtle roots go back far into the nineteenth century, the beginning of the Americanization of Europe roughly can be set after World War I. In the nineteenth century, quite a few Austrian industrialists and entrepreneurs visited the United States, in order to study mass production methods. An enormous fascination with American techology prevailed, and the intention behind the journeys to the US was not least to spy on American industrial techniques.

After World War I the American influence on Austria got even stroner, especially with regards to industrial production and management. An „productivity craze“ based on an American role model conquered Austria, „Fordism“ and „Taylorism“ were important keywords, and private organizations, like for instance „Rotary“, advocated and approved of the American model. The time of National Socialism caused a pause to this phenomenon, but after Word War, with the implementation of the Marshall plan, the process of Americanization was re-established and really reinforced through the Marshall plan.

Even though the influence of the American management styles on Austria was strong, it did not affect all sectors of the Austrian economy. In tourism industry familiy businesses predominated and American low-cost tourism had a hard time to get a foothold in Austria.

As far as the predominant groups who went to the States during that time are concerned, the biggest cohorts of Austrians were prisoners of war and exiles, whereas none of them went there on a voluntary basis. They were either coerced into exile during Hitler´s regime, or went there out of necessity in 1938 in order to save their lives. Most of those (predominantly) Jewish people did not come back to Austria after World War II, and advanced in their jobs in the U.S. for instance as film directors, artists, or professors, in which they exerted a great influence on the American society, and in succession the American view on Austria. Since most of those people were not „invited“ back after the war and in Austria a common unwillingness to face the Nazi past existed, a sort of Anti-Europeanism developed among those people, which consecutively disseminated itself and affected the American view of Austria negatively. The prisoner´s picture of America remained ambivalent, since they had a hard time to „cast aside their Nazi mental baggage in the land of the victors“ (Bischof 153). The image of Karl Mays adventure stories was the image that people had in their minds during that time. What they faced on arrival was quite a different thing, namely a pulsating country with an industrial potential that far outweighed the one of Nazi Germany.

The reeducation effort during the war was of great importance, since there was hope that once the prisoners of war, among whom were quite a few Austrians, had repatriated, they would advocate a democratic system and reject totalitarianism.

An even greater effect had the American occupation of Austria from 1945 until 1955. On a socio-cultural basis, it exerted great influence in various respects. The presence of the young, wealthy and healthy American soldiers impressed especially Austria´s young females. But also Austrian´s youngsters in general seemed to go for things like American music, jeans, chewing gum, or canned food. Next to that, the Marshall plan slowly but steadily created the basis for a prosperous economy, and American-style press and radio programs should help to democratize the Austrian society. Out of a cultural studies perspective, the so called „Amerika Houses“ are of importance. Built in order to familiarize the Austrian with American culture and societal values, they introduced American films, literature, and magazines to Austrians. Pivotal in this respect was the „Congress for Cultural freedom“, in which the intellectual Cold War against communism in Austrian was fought via the intellectual magazine „Forum“. Next to all these processes, it is important not to forget that the familiar Austrian highbrow stereotype of the lowbrow American „hillbillies“ was reinforced, especially in cities like Salzburg, in which the U.S. army spent a massive amount of money on its occupation zone, and from a cultural point of view people seemed to look down upon the Americans (probably not least because they turned their Festspielhaus into the variety-show theater „Roxy“).

Presumably the most relevant and lasting influence in the Americanization process of post World War II came via the various visitor progams, since particularly during the time of the occupation it provided Austrians with new perspectives and broadened their horizons in a consumerist heaven. Austria took part in these programs in order to support young professionals to go to see the States for stays of up to three months. As already mentioned, also within this context the main intention behind the support was the spread of long-term political democratization as well as economic liberalization of the war-torn Austria. Starting in 1948, the flow of Austrians visiting the United States with the idea of aiding the ideological reorientation of Austria became steadier. By 1960 about 500 leaders, such as politicians, chamber, journalist, professors, union and church leaders etc. had been to the U.S., which figured to be educational experiences all through.

In order to familiarize Austrians with American production and management methods, the second big wave of Austrians visiting the States started in 1950. According to the political scientist Kurt Tweraser (1995) the introduction of American industrial and managment techniques provided benefits for Austria, however, the Austrians picked what they wanted out of it and the tolerance of innovative production techniques did not necessarily implicit the acceptance of the whole cultural package which they were part of. Tweraser sheds light on the latest insights with respect to the anthropological and cultural paradigm of Americanization as an liaison between cultures. It seems that the people touring to the U.S.only absorbed and incorporated those parts of the American culture which fitted into their already existing ideological model. Fluck (2004) called this the „tool-kit-argument“, which explains the phenomenon of cultural studies where recipients usurp elements of foreign cultures selectively. Cultural imports are mixed with the indigenous and mutual influences are being negotiated and consecutively adopted or rejected.

With respect to the topic of our lecture, U.S. cultural exchanges in Austria since the 1980s, it is highly interesting that from a long-term perspective it was the various student exchange programs that had the greatest influence on the Americanization of Austria. Once more, the high-school exchanges were based on the assumption that the democratization process could be enhanced through this way. Therefore, I would like to go into this topic into greater detail in following.

The founder of the oldest post World-War II student and faculty exchange program, which was initiated in 1946 and financed by the U.S.American surplus goods, was Senator William J.Fulbright. In 1961 the program was handed on to Austria. By adding personal testimonials in his text, Bischof (2006) expresses the enormous impact the Fulbright program had on Austiran elites, whereas many of the leading politicians, diplomats, managers etc. were able to study abroad for the first time through this exchange program. Furthermore, decisive was also the fact that most of these participators not only were internalized in their outlook, but also shaped the Austrian view of America in a positive way. Later on many teachers conveyed this positive image of the USA to their Austrian students.

Another recognized exchange program was the high-school exchange „American Field Service“ (AFS). Similarly to Fulbright, it also had profound effects on the long-term Americanization of Austria´s youngsters, who were deeply affected by a year in the U.S. Bischof (2006) refers to their impression which was built to last for a lifetime, whereas many of the pupils were excited by American´s positive attitude towards life, their open-hearted friendliness, or simply the open-mindedness in contradistinction to the narrow-minded Austrians, the Austrian authoritarian education and stultifying Catholic morality.

During the 1980s, most Austrian universities had partnerships with universities in the USA, and a growing number of institutions of higher learning organised bilateral exchanges with the United States. No other institution had a greater influence on the Americanization of Austrian (and European) intellectuals than the well-known „Salzburg Seminar“, which was initiated by a group of Harvard student in 1947. Concerning the question of the origins of the Salzburg Seminar, Oliver Schmidt (2000) rejects the assumption that it was driven by „American Cultural imperialism“, and instead take the genesis of the seminar to be an „apt case study of American cultural diplomacy competing for cultural hegemony in Western Europe“ (2006: 64). The Salzburg Seminar was not only the world´s most important centre for intellectual exchange, but also crucial with respect to the burgeoning American Studies movement throughout Europe, whereas neutral Austria transformed into the transmission belt of American studies in Europe. The Salzburg Seminar as well as meetings of the Associaton for American Studies (AAAS) and the European Association for American Studies (EAAS) presumably constituted the most important networking opportunities in Europe.


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The Americanization of Austria from a historical point of view and the power of the American image in Austrian advertisements
University of Vienna
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americanization, austria, american, austrian
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Katharina Eder (Author), 2009, The Americanization of Austria from a historical point of view and the power of the American image in Austrian advertisements, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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