D. W. Ellwood
The First World War cost Europe the leadership of the world. But the United States of Woodrow Wilson was not ready to take its place. The 1920s brought Europe to a crossroads where mass democracy, mass production, and mass communications—the latter two dominated by American innovations— transformed ideas of sovereignty, modernity, and identity everywhere. The financial crash of 1929 destroyed illusions about the United States as the land of the future, and helped legitimize the totalitarians. European democrats looked to the 1930s New Deal as their last best hope. During the Second World War Roosevelt rebuilt the global order, with the United Nations and other new institutions. But the United States was now looking to ‘retire’ Europe from the world scene, and build a new universe based on America’s experience of the link between mass prosperity and democratic stability.
This chapter, which analyzes the Cold War culture in the West, suggests that there are three major forms of western Cold War culture. These include the culture of anti-communist repression, the culture of progressive reform and inclusion, and the culture of popular resistance to elite-driven Cold War mobilization. The chapter provides a definition of culture and “west,” and highlights the role of Catholicism in Latin America in Cold War culture. It also suggests that an analysis of western Cold War culture should start in the mid-1940s when the surge in leftist politics led moderate and conservative elites to pursue appeasement, repression, or a combination of both.