How We Got Here (24)

June 12, 2014

World cultural power

Our final survey of America in the 20th century deals with the century’s cultural impact on America, and America’s cultural impact on the world. When the 20th century began, American culture was peripheral to Europe. By mid-century it had become dominant and in the final half it was overwhelming. If, as in economics, the future of America’s cultural predominance had come into question, still it was only a question. As in economics, only time would tell. Now, note that cultural preeminence doesn’t necessarily mean popularity. For a couple of decades it was popular in certain European circles to decry what they called “the Coca Cola culture.” Preeminence doesn’t mean popularity; it means, you can’t be ignored.

Probably I will have to rethink my way of organizing things, because as I start this final piece, I can see that it mingles three pervasive American phenomena: cultural and political icons on the one hand and certain technologies themselves. But, let’s plow on and see how we do, once again starting from where we were in the year 2000 and working our way back.

 

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