Marketing, Modernity and “Americanisation”: Individual Entrepreneurship and the Genesis of Consumer Industries in Australia

  • John Sinclair School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, The University of Melbourne, Australia


Purpose - This paper shows how international cultural influence is mediated by individuals,
particularly those whose birth, education or other experience overseas enables them to see opportunities for innovation not evident to others. The case in point is the “Americanisation” of culture in Australia, where “America”, that is, the United States, represents the archetype of modernity, and
‘culture’, in this context, means the whole complex of practices and institutions identified with the emergence of “consumer society”.

Methodology/approach - Using library, online and interview sources, the paper considers three historical conjunctures when particular persons have introduced innovations which have provided the basis for the subsequent development of different kinds of consumer industries. Firstly, the Foster brothers, Americans who produced the eponymous iced lager in the 1880s; secondly, between the
World Wars, when Harold Clapp presided over the Victorian Railways Commission; and finally, the late 1960s, when fast-food franchising first comes to Australia.

Research implications/limitations - Given the emphasis on the role of individuals in this paper, the description and analysis of the historical and structural forces prevailing at each conjuncture is correspondingly light. However, in each case, it is shown how individual agency can produce significant and durable cultural change.

Originality/value - Theoretical paradigms of international cultural influence dominant in recent decades, notably ‘cultural imperialism’, have discouraged attention to particular persons. With their emphasis on objective historical and structural forces, such paradigms have swamped individuals in
determinism and denied their agency. This paper strives for some balance between structure and agency.


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