chapter  6
22 Pages

The Americanization of the German electrical industry after 1945

Siemens as a case study
ByWilfried Feldenkirchen

When speaking of the Americanization of West Germany, the phenomenon is usually associated with cultural and, above all, economic aspects. The term ‘Americanization’, which is most frequently equated with ‘modernization’, is understood as the takeover of American structures and concepts of industrial production and organization, and the assimilation of the corporate culture and corporate mentality that dominated in the United States.1 One should, however, differentiate between individual economic sectors and industries. The American market concept of mass consumption, for example, was far more easily adapted to the sector of consumer goods than to capital goods. ‘Chewing gum and Lucky Strikes, whose packaging alone symbolized the beautiful new world of modernity, were harbingers of McDonalds, corporate skyscrapers, and nuclear missiles.’2 These symbols stood for a modern American consumerism that promised a materially pleasant existence as well as the possibility of achieving it.3 Since there was an enormous pent-up demand for consumer goods in Germany after the Second World War, the tendency was naturally to look to America as a model. Yet American influences were also felt in other sectors of the economy. In view of America’s substantial technological edge, the more advanced chemical, electrical engineering and automotive industries were highly receptive to American influences, while the older coal and steel industry changed only gradually.4