Post-Cold War Consumerism; Mary Elise Sarotte

Mary Elise Sarotte’s book, The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe, aptly depicts the status of West/East Germany and how it was the centerpiece for the recreation of Europe after the Cold War.  Sarotte begins the book by discussing five major changes that occurred in the summer of 1989 which opened up the Berlin Wall. 1) The failure of events like Tiananmen to transfer over to a European context; 2) the choice of the American government to remove itself from the issue; 3) East Germans taking on the status quo; 4) an increase in East German self-confidence; and 5) the impact of television at this pivotal moment.  I will not go into detail for each of these, as Sarotte does so in the book, however number 5 did provoke some questions from me.  For instance, how is a media snafu like one such as this not caught or fixed before being released to the public?  Is it possible that this fumble of information was intended?

To focus on a more relevant topic of which we have been discussing, in the second chapter of Sarotte’s book, she talks about consumer goods.  The lack of consumer goods in East Germany posed a large problem for stores in West Germany as refugees settled in the West.  Stores had a difficult time managing the extreme increase in demand resulting from new consumers entering the market.  East German citizens were fleeing not only from the poor living standards but more specifically the poor economic status that contributed to it.  They were experiencing a massive demand deficit in East Germany thanks to low wages and high priced goods.  Refugees placed a large stress on the economic system of the West which could have had unpredictable effects on reunification of Germany.

Kandinsky’s Push Against Materialist Culture


In the introduction to his book, “Concerning the Spiritual in Art,” Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) contradicts contemporary middle class values through a verbal assault on materialist culture, and more specifically, artwork. During this phase of his life, Kandinsky lived in pre-WWI Germany. Originally a scholar in law and economics, he only started studying art at age thirty.[1] It was likely his background in law and economics that enabled him to understand better the relationship between art and consumerism.

In this specific passage, Kandinsky targets the materialism of art that emerged with the rise of the middle class, towards the end of the nineteenth century. According to Kandinsky, this recent trend “oppressed and dominated the human soul” and disabled an individual’s ability to experience subtle emotions.[2] Moreover, Kandinsky bemoaned the remarks that individuals said regarding the art, such as “nice” or “splendid.” This contradicted the middle class value that images of beauty should be simple and to the point. Moreover, it pushed back, in a way, against free market capitalism in the sense that goods should be judged especially on their quality, and not on their quantity. To remedy this problem, Kandinsky argued that spirituality and subtlety should be placed back into art, or else it will not be remembered even into the next generation.

As the paintings in the links to images below indicate, Kandinsky did not paint pieces that would likely be placed above a fireplace. He painted artwork that made an individual think, even about the most subtle of ideas.,+Red,+Blue.jpg


[1] “Wassily Kandinsky.” Wikipedia. Accessed March 16, 2015.

[2] Kandinsky, Wassily. “On the Spiritual in Art : First Complete English Translation, with Four Full Colour Page Reproductions, Woodcuts and Half Tones.” On the Spiritual in Art : First Complete English Translation, with Four Full Colour Page Reproductions, Woodcuts and Half Tones. Accessed March 16, 2015.