February 20, 2008
Mass Consumerism and the Cold War as Global History
Emily Rosenberg discussed the transnational spread of consumer societies during the 20th century. She argued that mass consumerism, which at the beginning of the century was closely associated with the notion of "Americanization," gradually adapted to local conditions and came to be widely embraced by many countries on both sides of the iron curtain in the post World War II era. According to Dr. Rosenberg, this fundamental societal transformation significantly contributed to the weakening of ideological confrontation between the socialist and capitalist blocs, thus making mass consumerism “the ‘ism’ that won the Cold War.”
Emily S. Rosenberg is professor of history at the University of California, Irvine. Her books Spreading the American Dream: American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890-1945 and Financial Missionaries to the World: The Politics and Culture of Dollar Diplomacy, 1900-1930, deal with the intersections of culture and economics in U.S. international relations. She has served as president of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR); an editor of the Oxford Companion to United States History; a Board member of the Organization of American Historians; and co-edits the “American Encounters, Global Interactions” book series for Duke University Press.
This presentation was part of the Strauss Center’s Globalization Speaker Series, which brings leading thinkers and writers from a range of disciplines to campus to discuss the opportunities and dangers created by our increasingly interconnected world.