Influencing Culture

“The Proletarian Tourist in the 1930s: Between Mass Excursion and Mass Escape” by Diane P. Koenker and “Comparing Apples and Oranges: Housewives and the Politics of Consumption in Interwar Germany” by Nancy Reagin both focus on the politicization of different aspects of daily life and leisure. Koenker’s article illustrates the way in which the Soviet government propagated tourism as a means to turn this leisure activity into a political action and elevate the proletariat culturally. Similarly, Reagin’s article highlights how the various housewife organizations in Interwar Germany politicized daily activities, like grocery shopping, and changed how German culture was perceived and remembered.

The way in which culture changed in Germany based on the opinions of these housewives’ organizations is very intriguing. The points made in this article bring up questions about larger implications for culture: how were other aspects of daily life in Interwar Europe determined and influenced by campaigns such as these? The fact that organizations determined national attitudes about daily choices—the types of food people ate (wheat bread vs white bread) and where they shopped—is incredible. That the pre-existing cultural climate allowed for this level of influence points to the chaos and loss present during this period. Europe had drastically changed in the span of four years and the following decades were filled with attempts to find a new equilibrium. These measures, encouraged by these German organizations, were meant to help find a new balance and help restore order and security to Germany.

Koenker writes about how the USSR attempted to influence its culture with tourism. The government wanted this practice to expand beyond the Bourgeoisie to the Proletariat, but this failed. Tourism in the USSR quickly turned from another avenue of collectivization to a new form of individualism and independence; this did not reflect the new governmental policies that encouraged a collective philosophy to truly mirror the ideals and principles of communism. These practices never became part of the essential culture, like food choices quickly became in Germany. Why did these two similar campaigns work so differently? Perhaps because the German organizations targeted daily practices rather travel, a leisure activity that occurs more rarely.

4 thoughts on “Influencing Culture

  1. Your blog posts bring up some interesting differences between the ways in which Germany and the U.S.S.R practiced social engineering. An interesting question that you could also address would be wether or not proletarian tourism, with its aim of creating socially conscious citizens through travel, might resemble the study abroad programs liberal arts colleges like Dickinson operate around the world. After all, the office for Global Education advertises travel with a purpose, one that someone might describe as “autonomous and collective, self-improving and socially constructive” (Koenker 119).

  2. Your post is really strong when it comes to pointing out interesting ideas and asking questions. I think another reason that these two campaigns worked so differently is because Germany was very, very focused on being a good German, while the Soviet Union was primarily focused on being a part of a mass and mass tourism was a major way to do this. Also, not to be too picky, but your last sentence “Perhaps because the German organizations targeted daily practices rather travel, a leisure activity that occurs more rarely.”, answers the question well, but you missed the “than” between rather and travel. Other than that this is a great post.

  3. I think this a very great blog showing the differences between German society and Soviet Union society. I agree with Zimmer’s answer to your question. Adding to that answer, I got the sense that at this time German’s had a better sense of independence and individuality than the Soviet Union. In Soviet Union, like Zimmer said, their was less individuality and more about the masses.

  4. This is a very strong blog post. Your blog is focussed on the readings, but mostly with your own opinions and thoughts of the texts. Your summaries of the texts are quick and sum up the key information. The questions you bring up are very thought provoking and interesting. Good job!

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