'Westernization': A New Paradigm for Interpreting West European History in a Cold War Context



Nehring H (2004) 'Westernization': A New Paradigm for Interpreting West European History in a Cold War Context. Cold War History, 4 (2), pp. 175-191.

The purpose of this review article is to discuss a new paradigm for interpreting transatlantic relations in the period between the late 1940s and the early 1970s. By focusing on the role of ideology in the Cold War and on the agencies through which it was transmitted, this paradigm highlights the importance of national traditions in the experience of the Cold War. Yet at the same time it does not abandon the unifying framework of the Cold War altogether. It assumes that, in a process of 'Westernization', a transatlantic community of values including compatible political, social and economic orders came into existence between the late 1940s and the early 1970s. 'Westernization' was not a one-way process of transmission or even imposition of American values on the European continent. Instead, British, French and Italian actors participated in the negotiation of such a community, so that ideas travelled back and forth across the Atlantic. This transatlantic community lasted until its tenets of economic growth and its underlying political, social and economic consensus had lost credibility in the wake of the oil crisis of 1973. Under Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, Britain and the United States adopted policies which broke with the politics of consensus, while European countries, most notably French and German politicians across the political spectrum, remained wedded to its basic contents.

Cold War History: Volume 4, Issue 2

Publication date31/01/2004
Publication date online09/08/2006
PublisherFrank Cass

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Professor Holger Nehring
Professor Holger Nehring

Chair in Contemporary European History, History