NOT LIKE US by Richard Pells

NOT LIKE US

How Europeans Have Loved, Hated, and Transformed American Culture Since World War II

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A fascinating and challenging work of cultural history that will force readers to rethink the complex relationship between the US and Europe. Ever since the First World War, European intellectuals have been fretting over the influence of American culture in the ``Old World.'' Conservative thinkers deplored what they perceived as an excessive materialism, individualism, and liberalism; leftist intellectuals lamented over America's economic and political hegemony. Both camps found common ground by focusing on American popular culture's deleterious effects on European society. It was widely assumed, especially after WW II, that America would eventually triumph in all fields. This even led one American pundit in the early 1990s to declare that ``the end of History'' had arrived in the form of the American victory in the Cold War: free- market, laissez-faire capitalism, combined with democracy, was the ideological end result of history. Pells (History/Univ. of Texas, Austin) presents here a necessary corrective to this interpretation. Despite the apparent invasion by American culture- -from Hollywood movies to Coca-Cola to the suburban ideal of home ownership--the 50-year trans-Atlantic dialogue is more complex than previously imagined. There is a historiographical analogy here: Just as scholars once though that ``native'' cultures developed sophisticated forms of resistance to cultural imperialism, so now Pells argues that the Europeans themselves have learned to assimilate American culture without losing their own identity and that, despite the impact of global media, cultural pluralism still prevails. Both American and European critics of US hegemony, Pells suggests, misjudged ``the ability of national cultures--democratic as well as authoritarian--to survive and even flourish in the age of globalization.'' Cultural history at its best: illuminating, entertaining, provocative.

Pub Date: May 7th, 1997
ISBN: 0-465-00164-5
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1997




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