When They Think of Democracy, They Think of Coca-Cola: The Coca-Cola Company and the·Cold War
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Coca-Cola's rise to global dominance occurred over the latter half of the 20'h century, a time marked by ideological opposition, rising nationalism, and-most importantly-the Cold War. How is it that Coca-Cola, a product that "in the eyes of many people abroad ... [was] indispensable to, and symbolic of, the American way of life," managed to establish itself in the staunchly anti-capitalist and anti-American communist countries of the Cold War? My analysis reveals that the Coca-Cola Company's expansion into communist states did not merely accompany the easing of tensions in the Cold War. Instead, both Coca-Cola and that company that produces it had important roles to play in the ideological struggle between the United States and communist nations. Over the course of the Cold War, the Coca-Cola Company used its innovative corporate structure, its identification with America and capitalism, and its connections to the U.S. government to pursue a course of astonishing international expansion that brought capitalism to communist countries that were otherwise hostile to economic liberalization. An international soft-drink company may not seem like a valid actor to focus on in such an immensely important event as the Cold War. But the impact of Coca-Cola and the company that sells it extends beyond what one might expect of an American corporation, no matter how large or influential. Coca-Cola is not just a company: it is not just a beverage. It is a universally recognized product and symbol, and truly global in a way that few other consumer products can claim.
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