Date of Award

2004

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

History

First Advisor

Bruce Kuklick

Abstract

Between 1947 and into the mid 1950s, the foreign assistance agencies of the United States developed an ambitious information program intended to support its foreign policy mission by shaping the every day behavior of average European citizens. This dissertation argues that the rationale behind this program was based on a corporatist vision of a productive political economy driven by consumption that became popular in American leadership circles as the means to combat global communism and support US foreign policy goals in Western Europe. Behind this world view lay a rhetoric of economic abundance its proponents advanced as a non-divisive, universally appealing language they believed would cut across class boundaries to neutralize the draw of socialist arrangements without alienating left-leaning groups whose support the US needed to secure stable European governments. This rhetoric thus dominated the American information efforts that accompanied US assistance to Europe in an effort to encourage the foreign audiences to restructure certain aspects of their economies to secure the abundance US diplomats felt was needed to maintain social peace and political stability. This work also argues that European response to this American project was complicated and was determined not by communist sympathies or level of support for the US as the American diplomats anticipated, but instead by native European issues. In focusing on advertising the merits of increasing productivity and consumption to secure abundance in Europe, American officials, rather than smoothing potential social divisions, inadvertently stirred deep-seated concerns among certain segments of the European public who feared US suggestions might marginalize their traditional roles and instigate disruptive social and economic change. For example, US efforts to encourage consumption by promoting self-service shopping arrangements to European housewives raised the ire of more traditional male retailers who felt threatened by such US supported market reform. These European responses help reveal the inherent contradictions in US policy and propaganda efforts and contribute to a better understanding of the complex European view of the US in the post WWII era.

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