Cocacolonization (alternatively coca-colonization) is a term that refers to globalization or cultural colonization. It is a portmanteau of the name of the multinational soft drink maker Coca-Cola and the word colonization.
The term is used to imply either the importation/spread of Western (particularly American) goods or an infusion of Western and especially American cultural values that competes with the local culture. While it is possible to use the term benignly, it has been used pejoratively to liken globalization to Westernization or Americanization. For example, according to linguist Ghil'ad Zuckermann, "with globalization, homogenization and coca-colonization, there will be more and more groups added to the forlorn club of the lost-heritage peoples."
The term has been used since 1949 and one of the first documented uses is in the warnings of the French communist press of that era. Time magazine used it in their 1961 review of Wilder's One, Two, Three, calling the film a "yell-mell, hard-sell, Sennett-with-a-sound-track satire of iron curtains and color lines, of people's demockeracy, Coca-Colonization, peaceful nonexistence, and the Deep Southern concept that all facilities are created separate but equal."
It gained visibility in the European Americanization debate with the 1994 publication of Reinhold Wagnleitner's book, Coca-Colonization and the Cold War: The Cultural Mission of the United States in Austria After the Second World War. The expression also became a catchphrase of the anti-globalization movement.
History of Cocacolonization
In Germany, the period before World War 2 presented several marketing problems. At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Adolf Hitler, a health faddist, insisted that every bottle of Coke have a caffeine-warning label. The same year, anti-Semitism hurt sales when a German competitor stole some kosher Coke bottle caps and urged consumers to avoid the "Jewish American" drink. To counter this, Coke's German branch passed out sodas at Hitler Youth rallies and displayed huge swastikas at bottling conventions.
But on the other side of the Atlantic, World War II proved a market blessing. The company convinced the American military that Coca-Cola was an essential morale booster. As a result, drinks for G.I.'s were exempted from sugar rationing. Company men, decked out in military drab, flew overseas to install bottling plants behind the lines.
Then there was Marshal Georgi Zhukov, the Russian war hero. When Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced Coke to Zhukov, the Russian liked it. But he also knew how Stalin would react if one of his generals was seen drinking an American imperialist symbol. The folks at Coke were as accommodating as could be. A chemist removed the soda's caramel color, and they put the drink in a clear bottle with a white cap and red star. First shipment of White Coke: 50 cases.
The Coca-Cola Company is hardly the only enterprise to see world events through the prism of profits, of course. But the company's size, age and prominence give the practice impressive sweep. In World War II, Coke was an American imperialist symbol, a kosher food, a fake Communist beverage and the drink of Hitler Youth. Most people thought the war was about good, evil, competing ideologies and so on, but for Coca-Cola the issue was simpler: more Coke or less Coke.
Similarly, when the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, the Coca-Cola people were there. They were passing out free six-packs.
Of course, no company, not even Coca-Cola, can carry out such an agenda by itself. It needs consumers, people like Marshal Zhukov, who want to drink Coke as much as the company wants to sell it. People like the World War II soldier who wrote home that "the most important question in amphibious landings" is "whether the Coke machine goes ashore in the first or second wave." Or like the crowds in Warsaw last year, who cheered wildly as the first Polish Coca-Cola truck arrived.
The documentary titled “The Cola Conquest”, directed by Irene Angelico, explores how Coca Cola has come to conquer the world markets, wield vast amounts of power and become so significant in lives all around the world. As mentioned in the introduction of the documentary, “Coke’s destiny is to inherit the Earth.” It also emphasizes how Coca Cola has brought on a cultural war in countries around the world.
In China, where tea drinking has been rooted deeply in the Chinese culture, the Chinese has resisted the Coca Cola Cultural Revolution. It has been difficult to change a daily ritual that has been so ingrained in their tea-drinking culture, but there is strength in Coca Cola’s marketing techniques as selling the American Dream as a product in the form of Coke. Similarly in France, where wine is the staple drink to accompany each meal, some view Coke as an unrefined drink that questions its national identity and have resisted its entry to the market. However, despite the challenges faced in some parts of the world, Mexico has put up little resistance against the Coca Cola conquest. In fact, the drink is included in Tzotzil rituals as a sort of “Holy Water”, used to expel evil spirits. The differing reactions to this cultural colonization show the extent of influence that the American symbol has on the entire world.
Cold War years
In explaining the role of Coca-Cola as a universal influence of the "American way" in the Cold War period, scholar Richard Kuisel states, "Perhaps no commercial product is more thoroughly identified with the United States... Coca Cola was fast becoming a universal drink". The dangers of cocacolonization were evoked after World War II by the French press, which regarded Coca-Cola as an American affront to the French culture. A typical cold war joke stated that, following the moon landing, the USSR leapfrogged the U.S. by painting the moon red, whilst the U.S. retaliated by going back and writing Coca-Cola in white on the red background. Seen as 'too American' for Communists, Pepsi was the main exported soft drink to Europe for much of the Cold War.
After Cold War years
Coca Cola, a sign of cultural imperialism. Right after the Cold War, Coca Cola advertisements can be seen in communist countries such as China and the Soviet Union. The idea of Coca Cola and Cold War is seemingly placed together because of the fact that American influence is still spreading despite the end of the Cold War. Such American influence is spread through the use of its products and advertising.
Coca-colonization is resented in many areas of the world, particularly in the Muslim countries, and by some ethnic minorities in the Western world; American brands tend to be boycotted by the consumers there. Alternative products of non-US origin are therefore available on the local markets. The best example is perhaps the range of cola-flavored soft drinks defining themselves as non-American, e.g. Mecca Cola, Parsi Cola, Eram Cola, and Zamzam Cola.
In 1949, French communists made several attempts to make a law prohibiting importation and sale of Coca-Cola.
Many governments attempt to resist the proliferation of American culture, usually by imposing quotas. For example, France was granted a cultural exception during the GATT negotiations, despite the objections of the American movie industry; as a result, in 2005 its domestic film market consisted of only 75% of US-originated content in comparison with 90% share of the other European countries. Canada also resorts to cultural protectionism, requiring a minimum share of Canadian content in domestic media. Many countries impose "screen quotas" to protect their domestic film production, a practice started in United Kingdom in 1927; other countries with screen quotas include France, South Korea, Brazil, Pakistan, Italy and Spain.
In October 2005, UNESCO's Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions enshrined cultural exception as a method of protecting local cultures. Sponsored by France and Canada, the convention was passed 185-2, with four nations abstaining from voting. The notable naysayers were the United States and Japan. The United States claims that cultural exception is a form of protectionism that harms global trade.
Moreover, the idea that Coca Cola harbors the capitalistic culture of America spreads with the product itself. The spread of Coca Cola to Asia also means the rampant spread of capitalism in Asia, in contrast to the Asian culture of frugality, such cultural imperialism undermines the values of the Asian culture.
The German metal band, Rammstein, has a song called Amerika which is all about the Cocacolonization of the world. The music video features diverse cultures, such as that of India and Africa, using American products.
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