Reception and function of American culture in Switzerland after World War II
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This dissertation examines the reception and function of US culture in Switzerland after World War II. The study surveys the developments in Swiss material culture, literature and lifestyles against the background of the ongoing debate over the post-war Americanization of Europe. As the rest of Europe, Switzerland imported many American products in the decades after the war: consumer goods, films, technology and also elements of language. American occupation accelerated the cultural transfer from the United States to Germany. Today, many Swiss think that they are just as Americanized as the Germans. This dissertation is an attempt to uncover how this perceived Americanization happened in a European country whose contact with the United States was quite different from the one its neighbors experienced. Switzerland was never occupied. Tracing the reception of American culture, the analysis of Swiss culture moves from the concrete to the more and more intangible. The first chapter recapitulates the development of Switzerland's visual landscape in recent decades, examining the emergence of such features of material culture as architecture, urban planning, commercial zones, freeways, etc. A reading of images of America, so-called Amerikabilder, in post-war Swiss literature follows this examination of material culture. Finally, the third chapter is an attempt to grasp the Swiss Lebensgefühl or attitude towards life. Did, and if yes, how did the Swiss mentality, their values and lifestyles in a "clockwork country" change over the years? Can this change be meaningfully described in terms of "Americanization"? Throughout, the dissertation focuses on the individual. Rather than contributing to the "Americanization debate" on an abstract cultural level, this study recognizes the significance of the United States on an intellectual and psychological level of the individual. "Americanization" emerges as shorthand explanation for modernization processes that individuals embrace while commentators and critics often perceive threats to authentic Swiss or, as the case may be, European culture.