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Between legitimization and popularization: the rise and reception of U.S. cultural products in culture sections of quality European newspapers, 1960–2010

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Abstract

A prominent feature of cultural globalization has been the rising influence of U.S. culture—and American popular culture in particular—worldwide since the mid-20th century. Relatively little is known, however, about the thoroughness, reception, and national variation of this alleged “Americanization” of culture. This study explores the rise of and reactions to U.S. culture in Europe with a longitudinal research design that combines quantitative and qualitative content analysis. Through an analysis of European newspaper culture sections from 1960 to 2010 (the unit of analysis being an article; N = 7322) and a close reading of articles concerning U.S. cultural products (N = 1009), we examine the extent to which the proportion of U.S. cultural products has increased, how characterizations of U.S. culture have changed, and whether the art forms discussed and the newspapers embedded in divergent European national contexts differ in these respects. The results contribute to, and in part problematize, previous knowledge on the role and meanings of the growing influence of U.S. culture in post-1960s Europe. Instead of overestimating its significance, Americanization is best understood as one aspect in the legitimization processes of popular culture and the popularization of (traditional) legitimate culture.

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Notes

  1. For sociocultural research comparing Finland and the UK as a suitable pair capable of providing enough differences at the European scale but still being comparable cases, see Purhonen and Wright (2013) and Wright et al. (2013).

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Acknowledgements

This is a revised version of a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society, Boston, USA, 17–20 March 2016, at the 28th conference of the Nordic Sociological Association, Helsinki, Finland, 11–13 August 2016, and at some other seminars and meetings during 2016–2017. We are grateful to all those who commented on the earlier versions of the manuscript. Moreover, we want to thank Olli Tiikkainen for his help in early stages of the analysis as well as the anonymous reviewers of AJCS. The research carried out in this study has been made possible by the financial support from the Academy of Finland (Grant No. 291619), Kone Foundation and the University of Helsinki research Grants.

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Purhonen, S., Lauronen, T. & Heikkilä, R. Between legitimization and popularization: the rise and reception of U.S. cultural products in culture sections of quality European newspapers, 1960–2010. Am J Cult Sociol 7, 382–411 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41290-018-0064-z

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