Catalogue


Why the American century? /
Olivier Zunz.
imprint
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1998.
description
xvi, 254 p. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0226994619 (cloth : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1998.
isbn
0226994619 (cloth : alk. paper)
catalogue key
2390431
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [193]-245) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 1998-09-01:
The phrase "the American Century" was coined by Henry Luce in the early 1940s to connote the growing importance of America's position of leadership in world affairs. Zunz (history, Univ. of Virginia) has written an intriguing account of "the ways big business, government, and the expanding sector of higher education built a partnership in the late 19th century and early 20th to engineer and manage a new America." This new America, he says, represented a kind of "export model" that promised technological progress, consumer fulfillment, and formal democratic participation for those who adopted entreprenuerial values and accepted American hegemony. "More than other people," argues Zunz, "[Americans] have put on the world agenda their understanding of the relationship among national wealth, individual freedom, and personal well-being." Zunz's own stance toward America's international influence is sympathetic but marked by a degree of ambivalence. His book details how informal institutional relationships developed in the first decades of the century provided a crucial underpinning to America's global role in the second half. Recommended for larger public libraries; highly recommended for academic libraries.‘Kent Worcester, Marymount Manhattan Coll., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 1999-04:
Zunz has written a complex and significant book that is not easily captured in a brief review. Rather than retell the familiar story of the US world role in the 20th century, Zunz examines the structural, intellectual, and economic systems that were the foundations for America's international ascendancy. The early chapters outline an institutional "matrix of inquiry"--universities, philanthropic foundations, industrial laboratories, military research--that developed the science, technology, and especially the social science that made possible the American century. Other sections analyze middle-class consumerism and political pluralism, and show how those deflected and diffused traditional class differences. Finally, a particularly original chapter relates the story of American attempts to restructure Japan in the American image after WW II. Zunz is a good writer, with a knack for creatively crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries, developing significant themes, and finding unusual and appropriate details to illustrate them. On the negative side, although the individual chapters and sections of the book are tightly focused, as a whole they are loosely related, cover disparate topics, and often work better as stand-alone essays. Still, an important and original study of the 20th-century US. All levels. K. Blaser; Wayne State College
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1998-10-19:
In February 1941, Henry Luce famously proclaimed that the United States could and should dominate the remainder of the century‘the nation deserved no less than to dictate the course of world history. In recent years, such an assertion would raise a storm of protest, yet Zunz's (Making America Corporate) wide-ranging research documents how complicated the case truly is. Zunz starts with Luce, who, he reminds us, was speaking for a liberal internationalism that represented myriad voices and was, at that moment, aimed at bringing the U.S. into WWII. Separating the idea of the "American century" from the "Pax Americana," Zunz argues that Americans started the century with "two large but unfinished projects": the creation of a continent-wide industrial economy and the expansion of democratic institutions within their own population. Zunz follows an impressive number of American paths towards these goals: scientists learned to harmonize science and industry; social scientists channeled their interest in analyses of culture as a whole into government policy; economists encouraged consumerism as a road to social stability; and the population in general was taught to think of itself as a pluralist entity rather than in particular sections. These were the goals that the U.S. then exported (most notably to Japan), but the "enlarged scale of their operations" abroad also furthered both projects at home. While occasionally dry, the book takes sweeping, thought-provoking account of the failures and successes of those who created the century's American model. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Booklist, September 1998
Library Journal, September 1998
Publishers Weekly, October 1998
New York Times Book Review, February 1999
Choice, April 1999
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Reinterpreting our country's rise to world power, Olivier Zunz shows how American elites appropriated the twentieth century. Policymakers, corporate managers, engineers, scientists, and social scientists promoted a social contract of abundance and a controversial theory of pluralism. Their efforts created a model of middle class behavior for America and for the rest of the world. "It should certainly be the task of historians to explain the nation's triumphs as effectively as they have explained its failures, and Zunz in this intelligent, learned and ambitious book suggests a valuable new model for doing so."Alan Brinkley,Times Literary Supplement "Zunz is evenhanded in his judgments. . . . His thesis is both imaginative and well grounded in the appropriate sources."David M. Oshinsky,New York Times Book Review "Zunz is an innovative and perceptive social critic. He crosses disciplinary boundaries with ease and felicity, and is particularly adept at illustrating large themes with unusual but telling details."Kent Blaser,American Studies "An eye-opening introduction to the shaping of modern America."Foreign Affairs
Main Description
Reinterpreting our country's rise to world power, Olivier Zunz shows how American elites appropriated the twentieth century. Policymakers, corporate managers, engineers, scientists, and social scientists promoted a social contract of abundance and a controversial theory of pluralism. Their efforts created a model of middle class behavior for America and for the rest of the world. "It should certainly be the task of historians to explain the nation's triumphs as effectively as they have explained its failures, and Zunz in this intelligent, learned and ambitious book suggests a valuable new model for doing so."Alan Brinkley, Times Literary Supplement "Zunz is evenhanded in his judgments. . . . His thesis is both imaginative and well grounded in the appropriate sources."David M. Oshinsky, New York Times Book Review "Zunz is an innovative and perceptive social critic. He crosses disciplinary boundaries with ease and felicity, and is particularly adept at illustrating large themes with unusual but telling details."Kent Blaser, American Studies "An eye-opening introduction to the shaping of modern America." Foreign Affairs
Table of Contents
Preface: "The New Colossus"
Making the Century American
Producers, Brokers, and Users of Knowledge
Defining Tools of Social Intelligence
Inventing the Average American
The Social Contract of the Market
Turning out Consumers
Deradicalizing Class
Embattled Identities
From Voluntarism to Pluralism
Enlarging the Polity
Exporting American Principles
Individualism and Modernization
The Power of Uncertainty
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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