Cold War & consumerism

Cold War & consumerism

What did the Cold War produce? Consumerism may be one answer.

At an exhibition that opens this week at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the theme is Design 1945-1970. The curator of the exhibition, Jane Pavitt, feels much of what is modern, from microwave appliances to the Internet to computers, had its genesis in the deadly struggle between superpower rivals of that age, as she told BBC.

A great deal of industrial output was geared to military ends both in the West and in the Soviet Union. It was also, to use a contemporary expression, dual use in a happy sense.

The Internet, for example, emerged from a project funded by the US defence advanced research projects agency.

There were other, less glamorous, spin-offs as well. Snug fibreglass chairs, forerunners of modish furniture in vogue today, were one example.

The question being asked now is whether such creativity unleashed by hostility, will be witnessed again. The context now being the nosedive in relations between Russia and the US. There’s no answer to that, at least for the moment.