The cultural conditions of Cold War Australia: Conventions of and challenges to the ‘Australian Way of Life’ from 1947 to 1972

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Eleanor Foster


Australia, migration, culture, Cold War, history


This essay explores the role of the Cold War in Australian cultural life from 1947 to 1972 and the extent to which the encroachment of polarising politics on the domestic sphere transformed ideals of the supposed ‘Australian Way of Life’. Through analysis of the social expressions of ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Australians during the Cold War period, I chart the trends and transitions in Australian cultural identity and the shift from traditional fixations on national isolation and ethnic homogeneity toward a more diverse population and global outlook. While historiographical analysis has traditionally categorised the Cold War era by decades of dissimilarity—with the 1950s considered a time of anxious conformity and the 1960s associated with progressive social change—considerable cultural debate concerning the character and stability of the ‘Australian Way of Life’ endured throughout the period. Questioning the widespread assumption of Australian cultural life as a derivative backwater, this essay argues that demographic, social, and intellectual transitions generated by the Cold War forced the growing populace, and both sides of the ideological spectrum, to confront their place in the world and imagine the nation anew into the second half of the twentieth century.

Abstract 351 | PDF Downloads 2009