FEATURE10 November 2021

Across the divide: Culture wars in the US and UK

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The ‘culture wars’ phenomenon may not be as widespread in the UK as in the US, but brands may still need to tread carefully. By Liam Kay.


At the Republican National Convention in 1992, Pat Buchanan spoke about a “cultural war” equating to a “struggle for the soul of America”. James Davison Hunter’s 1991 book, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America, explained ‘culture wars’ as a struggle to define American public life between progressives and the orthodox, while in the UK, many in the media have tried to import this definition from the US wholesale.

‘Culture wars’ today can be broadly seen as referring to the battles between left and right wings of politics and society – Democrats vs Republicans in the US or, increasingly, remain vs leave in the UK, according to the 2018 NatCen report, The Emotional Legacy of Brexit.

Recent use of the term has surged. In 2015, there were 21 articles in mainstream UK newspapers that mentioned a UK culture war, while, by 2020, there were 534, according to King’s College London research.

Businesses are often caught in the middle. Last year, Coca-Cola condemned a voting law in ...