The idea that Americanization might not be a universal boon, heretical 20 years back, has now become a unit of study--per...


SPREADING THE AMERICAN DREAM: American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890-1945

The idea that Americanization might not be a universal boon, heretical 20 years back, has now become a unit of study--per this latest entry in the American Century series. Macalester historian Rosenberg dubs the impulse behind US economic and cultural expansion--our particular imperialism--""the liberal-developmental impulse,"" which is as good a description as any; and she proceeds, by synthesizing the writings of recent years, to trace its workings from the Progressive Era through World War II--or, in phases betokening increasing governmental intervention, from ""the promotional state"" (the 1890s through World War I), to ""the cooperative state"" (the 1920s), to ""the regulatory state"" (the Depression through World War II). The scheme has its use as an ordering principle and does jibe roughly with the shift from support for American trade and investment, under Taft, to protection of American foreign interests, under Coolidge, to governmental assumption of an international economic role, under FDR. But, as Rosenberg recognizes, successive presidents, from Taft onward, utilized private bankers and businesses as ""chosen instruments"" of foreign policy--the House of Morgan in 1900s China, Pan Am in late-1920s Latin America (and the 1930s Pacific). Inextricable from foreign economic penetration in the American interest was the diffusion of American ideas-whether politico-economic (""American traders. . . linked mass production, mass marketing, and technological improvement to an enlightened democratic spirit"") or politico-cultural (""Radio broadcasting seemed""--to Wilson--""the perfect liberal democratic medium""). Also implicated were various organizations (from the YMCA to the Foreign Policy Association) and philanthropies (notably, and notoriously, the Rockefellers). With a very few exceptions, the effects of ""spreading the American dream"" are outside Rosenberg's scope; by way of critique, she confines herself largely to ""problems"" with liberal-developmentalist goals (e.g., American ""free market"" dominance might stifle local development). So the reader will find neither the fervor that animates the works of William Appleman Williams or Michael Hudson, nor the rigor of specialized studies like Jeremy Tunstall's The Media Are American. But the book is an efficient way to get a sense of the workings of ""America's special mission to uplift the world.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Hill & Wang/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981

Close Quickview