Cocacolonization (alternatively coca-colonization) is a term that refers to the globalization of American culture (also referred as to as Americanization) pushed through popular American products such as soft drink maker Coca-Cola. It is a portmanteau of the name of the capitalistic multinational soft drink maker and the suffix “ization”: a process of change that happens everywhere the culture of capitalism takes root.
The term was first documented in 1949 in France. Some French communists began using the word to stir up fears that the United States would attempt to colonize their country as part of the recovery efforts following World War II.
In World War II and the Cold War, many outside of the United States associated Coca-Cola with American culture. With ties to the culture of the United States, select Europeans rejected attempts to cocacolonize their nations. It represented an invasion of their nationalistic identities. In Europe, Coca-Cola was not just a carbonated refreshment, but bottled America. By the end of the Cold War, American ideals were spread across the world by Coke and in certain cases, to combat Communism.
Cocacolonization as a historical concept 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. Wagnleitner used cocacolonization to embody the premise of his book: America attempted cultural imperialism by expanding American ideals through the spread of consumer goods such as Coca-Cola and Levi jeans and through cultural symbols like Rock and roll and Marlon Brando’s black leather jacket, as well as through the promotion of democracy in Europe.
History of Cocacolonization
Cocacolonization began at the beginning of World War II and still exists as of 2015. Over time, some countries resisted the American soft drink while others openly accepted it. To all, it represented America and her culture and at a majority of major historical events during the twentieth century, Coke was in attendance.
World War II
When war broke out and American troops were sent overseas, the Coca-Cola company vowed that any American in uniform should be able to get a Coke for five cents wherever they were. As a result, the company built bottling stations in the Pacific and on the Western front.
Germans recognized Coke to be a “Jewish-American” drink. In response, the Nazi regime only allowed Coke in the country if it displayed a swastika on the bottle, which it did. In Russia, war hero Marshal Georgi Zhukov loved the drink, but Soviet leader Joseph Stalin viewed it as an American imperialist symbol. As a solution, Coca-Cola developed a clear version of the drink bottled with a white cap and red star to not appear like the well-known American drink.
On the Pacific front of the war, Coke had a tough time reaching the troops. To address the issue, the company created portable soda fountains that were distributed throughout the islands on the Pacific Ocean. Asian countries experienced Coca-Cola. According to the company, the drink spread throughout the islands because, “Coke symbolized the American way of life.”
Throughout the war, Coke dispersed ads for their soda all over the world. The majority of the ads displayed an American soldier drinking a soda with the natives of that country. If the ad was in a country outside of the United States, it was written in the native language of that country. Popular ads had positive images of Americans with Coke in New Zealand, Russia, the Philippines, Newfoundland, Italy, England, and in Poland. According to Coca-Cola, “From the jungles of the Admiral Islands to the officer clubs in the Riviera,” Coke and America was there.
Late 1940s and the Cold War
The end of World War II marked widespread cocacolonization of Europe and Asia. In 1947, Coca-Cola bottling operations began in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg; then Switzerland, Italy, and France by 1949. Author Mark Gordon said, “American ideals were now being pushed on Europeans every time they sipped a bottle of Coke.” By the early 1950s, there were 63 bottling plants expanding across three continents including the countries of: Egypt, Iceland, Iran, West Africa, and New Guinea.
By the time of the Cold War, Coke met resistance in some countries. Italians kept from indulging in the soda. Austrians recognized the expansion of the company as an attempt to spread American culture and ideals overseas. In France, French communists spread awareness about Coca-Cola. They coined the term cocacolonization because they saw the spread of Coke in their country as an attempt to make it an American colony. When the company attempted to open a bottling plant in the country, French Communists threatened to barricade Paris to keep Coke out. To the French, the company represented Capitalist America.
Medical experts use the term cocacolonization in their medical journals representing the spread of unhealthy American foods overseas.
Due to an increase in tourism in their area, the Mayan tribe in the Yucatán Peninsula experienced a decline in health because they were introduced to unhealthy American foods. They became increasingly dependent on the foods. Similarly, the Tz’utujill tribe in South Africa was also introduced to the same food and encountered the same decline in health lead. Worldwide, type 2 diabetes spread and steadily increased over the past 20 years. The explanation for their decline in health: cocacolonization.
As of 2015, Coca-Cola has been distributed to over 200 countries worldwide. A few of the many countries consist of China, Guatemala, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Russia, Canada, England, Algeria, and Libya. According to the company, “Coca-Cola is the second-most understood term in the world behind “okay.”
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- Wallace, Kristin; Koch, Jillian (2012). "Globalization of Coca Cola". Video.
- Angelico, Irene (1998). "The Cola Conquest, Part III: Coca-Colonization". Documentary.
- Wagnleitner, Reinhold (1994). Coca-Colonization and the Cold War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-4455-1.
- Flusty, Steven (2004). De-Coca-Colonization. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-94537-2.
- Pendergrast, Mark (2013). For God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company that Makes it. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-02917-4.