The idea that a Senator—Republican or Democrat—would put the greater good of the country ahead of party seems nearly impossible to imagine in our current climate of gridlock and divisiveness. But this hasn’t always been the case. Arthur H. Vandenberg (1884–1951), Republican from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the model of a consensus builder, and the coalitions he spearheaded continue to form the foundation of American foreign and domestic policy today. Edward R. Murrow called him “the central pivot of the entire era,” yet, despite his significance, Vandenberg has never received the full public attention he is due—until now. With this authoritative biography, Hendrik Meijer reveals how Vandenberg built and nurtured the bipartisan consensus that created the American Century.
Originally the editor and publisher of the Grand Rapids Herald, Vandenberg was appointed and later elected to the Senate in 1928, where he became an outspoken opponent of the New Deal and a leader among the isolationists who resisted FDR’s efforts to aid European allies at the onset of World War II. But Vandenberg soon recognized the need for unity at the dawn of a new world order; and as a Republican leader, he worked closely with Democratic administrations to build the strong bipartisan consensus that established the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, and NATO. Vandenberg, as Meijer reveals, was instrumental in organizing Congressional support for these monumental twentieth-century foreign policy decisions.
Vandenberg’s life and career offer powerful lessons for today, and Meijer has given us a story that suggests an antidote to our current democratic challenges. After reading this poignant biography, many will ask: Where is the Vandenberg of today?
Capital of the American Century investigates the remarkable influence that New York City has exercised over the economy, politics, and culture of the nation throughout much of the twentieth century. New York's power base of corporations, banks, law firms, labor unions, artists and intellectuals has played a critical role in shaping areas as varied as American popular culture, the nation's political doctrines, and the international capitalist economy. If the city has lost its unique prominence in recent decades, the decline has been largely—and ironically—a result of the successful dispersion of its cosmopolitan values. The original essays in Capital of the American Century offer objective and intriguing analyses of New York City as a source of innovation in many domains of American life. Postwar liberalism and modernism were advanced by a Jewish and WASP coalition centered in New York's charitable foundations, communications media, and political organizations, while Wall Street lawyers and bankers played a central role in fashioning national security policies. New York's preeminence as a cultural capital was embodied in literary and social criticism by the "New York intellectuals," in the fine arts by the school of Abstract Expressionism, and in popular culture by Broadway musicals. American business was dominated by New York, where the nation's major banks and financial markets and its largest corporations were headquartered. In exploring New York's influence, the contributors also assess the larger social and economic conditions that made it possible for a single city to exert such power. New York's decline in recent decades stems not only from its own fiscal crisis, but also from the increased diffusion of industrial, cultural, and political hubs throughout the nation. Yet the city has taken on vital new roles that, on the eve of the twenty-first century, reflect an increasingly global era: it is the center of U.S. foreign trade and the international art market: The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have emerged as international newspapers; and the city retains a crucial influence in information-intensive sectors such as corporate law, accounting, management consulting, and advertising. Capital of the American Century provides a fresh link between the study of cities and the analysis of national and international affairs. It is a book that enriches our historical sense of contemporary urban issues and our understanding of modern culture, economy, and politics.
The surprising story of the movement to create a truly democratic foreign policy by engaging ordinary Americans in world affairs.
No major arena of US governance is more elitist than foreign policy. International relations barely surface in election campaigns, and policymakers take little input from Congress. But not all Americans set out to build a cloistered foreign policy “establishment.” For much of the twentieth century, officials, activists, and academics worked to foster an informed public that would embrace participation in foreign policy as a civic duty.
The first comprehensive history of the movement for “citizen education in world affairs,” Every Citizen a Statesman recounts an abandoned effort to create a democratic foreign policy. Taking the lead alongside the State Department were philanthropic institutions like the Ford and Rockefeller foundations and the Foreign Policy Association, a nonprofit founded in 1918. One of the first international relations think tanks, the association backed local World Affairs Councils, which organized popular discussion groups under the slogan “World Affairs Are Your Affairs.” In cities across the country, hundreds of thousands of Americans gathered in homes and libraries to learn and talk about pressing global issues.
But by the 1960s, officials were convinced that strategy in a nuclear world was beyond ordinary people, and foundation support for outreach withered. The local councils increasingly focused on those who were already engaged in political debate and otherwise decried supposed public apathy, becoming a force for the very elitism they set out to combat. The result, David Allen argues, was a chasm between policymakers and the public that has persisted since the Vietnam War, insulating a critical area of decisionmaking from the will of the people.
"A readable and concise overview of how U.S. transportation came to its present pass. . . . Goddard is at his best when recounting the complex and interesting history of what has come to be called 'the highway lobby.'. . . An excellent book for the general reader with an interest in getting around."—Larry Fish, Philadelphia Inquirer
"This is a riveting story: of mighty railroads hamstrung almost overnight by government bureaucrats; of road interests led by General Motors Corp. conspiring in city after city to destroy efficient trolley systems . . . and of freeways that are far from free."—Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press
"The combination of forces and fates that turned America into a giant parking lot from sea to shining sea is the subject of Stephen B. Goddard's lively pop history. . . . As Mr. Goddard ably points out, road-building and the creation of car-dependent suburbs have become ends in themselves."—James Howard Kunstler, Wall Street Journal
"The strength of Goddard's book is that he understands the complexities of manipulating public opinion to influence legislatures."—David Young, Chicago Tribune
"[Goddard's] book is a deft and easily read history of how transportation has shaped the nation and its economy, and ultimately, how a federation of truck and car interests drastically tilted national policies. . . . For many reasons this is an exceptionally important work."—Jim Dwyer, New York Newsday
What made Henry Kissinger the kind of diplomat he was? What experiences and influences shaped his worldview and provided the framework for his approach to international relations? Jeremi Suri offers a thought-provoking, interpretive study of one of the most influential and controversial political figures of the twentieth century.
Drawing on research in more than six countries in addition to extensive interviews with Kissinger and others, Suri analyzes the sources of Kissinger's ideas and power and explains why he pursued the policies he did. Kissinger's German-Jewish background, fears of democratic weakness, belief in the primacy of the relationship between the United States and Europe, and faith in the indispensable role America plays in the world shaped his career and his foreign policy. Suri shows how Kissinger's early years in Weimar and Nazi Germany, his experiences in the U.S. Army and at Harvard University, and his relationships with powerful patrons--including Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon--shed new light on the policymaker.
Kissinger's career was a product of the global changes that made the American Century. He remains influential because his ideas are rooted so deeply in dominant assumptions about the world. In treating Kissinger fairly and critically as a historical figure, without polemical judgments, Suri provides critical context for this important figure. He illuminates the legacies of Kissinger's policies for the United States in the twenty-first century.
No nation was more deeply affected by America’s rise to world power than Japan. President Franklin Roosevelt’s uncompromising policy of unconditional surrender led to the catastrophic finale of the Asia-Pacific War and the most intrusive international reconstruction of another nation in modern history. Japan in the American Century examines how Japan, with its deeply conservative heritage, responded to the imposition of a new liberal order.
The price Japan paid to end the occupation was a cold war alliance with the United States that ensured America’s dominance in the region. Still traumatized by its wartime experience, Japan developed a grand strategy of dependence on U.S. security guarantees so that the nation could concentrate on economic growth. Yet from the start, despite American expectations, Japan reworked the American reforms to fit its own circumstances and cultural preferences, fashioning distinctively Japanese variations on capitalism, democracy, and social institutions.
Today, with the postwar world order in retreat, Japan is undergoing a sea change in its foreign policy, returning to an activist, independent role in global politics not seen since 1945. Distilling a lifetime of work on Japan and the United States, Kenneth Pyle offers a thoughtful history of the two nations’ relationship at a time when the character of that alliance is changing. Japan has begun to pull free from the constraints established after World War II, with repercussions for its relations with the United States and its role in Asian geopolitics.
In this highly original reexamination of North American poetry in English from Ezra Pound to the present day, Christopher Nealon demonstrates that the most vital writing of the period is deeply concerned with capitalism. This focus is not exclusive to the work of left-wing poets: the problem of capitalism’s effect on individuals, communities, and cultures is central to a wide variety of poetry, across a range of political and aesthetic orientations. Indeed, Nealon asserts, capitalism is the material out of which poetry in English has been created over the last century.
Much as poets of previous ages continually examined topics such as the deeds of King Arthur or the history of Troy, poets as diverse as Jack Spicer, John Ashbery, and Claudia Rankine have taken as their “matter” the dynamics and impact of capitalism—not least its tendency to generate economic and political turmoil. Nealon argues persuasively that poets’ attention to the matter of capital has created a corresponding notion of poetry as a kind of textual matter, capable of dispersal, retrieval, and disguise in times of crisis. Offering fresh readings of canonical poets from W. H. Auden to Adrienne Rich, as well as interpretations of younger writers like Kevin Davies, The Matter of Capital reorients our understanding of the central poetic project of the last century.
After the Second World War, the idea that local community action was indispensable for the alleviation of poverty was broadly embraced by US policymakers, social scientists, international development specialists, and grassroots activists. Governmental efforts to mobilize community action in the name of democracy served as a volatile condition of possibility for poor people and dispossessed groups negotiating the tension between calls for self-help and demands for self-determination in the era of the Cold War and global decolonization. In Poverty in Common, Alyosha Goldstein suggests new ways to think about the relationship among liberalism, government, and inequality in the United States. He does so by analyzing historical dynamics including Progressive-era reform as a precursor to community development during the Cold War, the ways that the language of "underdevelopment" articulated ideas about poverty and foreignness, the use of poverty as a crucible of interest group politics, and radical groups' critical reframing of community action in anticolonial terms. During the mid-twentieth century, approaches to poverty in the United States were linked to the racialized and gendered negotiation of boundaries—between the foreign and the domestic, empire and nation, violence and order, and dependency and autonomy.
After World War II, American organizations launched efforts to improve the lives of foreign children, from war orphans in Europe and Japan to impoverished youth in the developing world. Providing material aid, education, and emotional support, these programs had a deep humanitarian underpinning. But they were also political projects. Sara Fieldston’s comprehensive account Raising the World shows that the influence of child welfare agencies around the globe contributed to the United States’ expanding hegemony. These organizations filtered American power through the prism of familial love and shaped perceptions of the United States as the benevolent parent in a family of nations.
The American Friends Service Committee, Foster Parents’ Plan, and Christian Children’s Fund, among others, sent experts abroad to build nursery schools and orphanages and to instruct parents in modern theories of child rearing and personality development. Back home, thousands of others “sponsored” overseas children by sending money and exchanging often-intimate letters. Although driven by sincere impulses and sometimes fostering durable friendships, such efforts doubled as a form of social engineering. Americans believed that child rearing could prevent the rise of future dictators, curb the appeal of communism, and facilitate economic development around the world.
By the 1970s, child welfare agencies had to adjust to a new world in which American power was increasingly suspect. But even as volunteers reconsidered the project of reshaping foreign societies, a perceived universality of children’s needs continued to justify intervention by Americans into young lives across the globe.
The twentieth century was one of astonishing change in science, especially as pursued in the United States. Against a backdrop of dramatic political and economic shifts brought by world wars, intermittent depressions, sporadic and occasionally massive increases in funding, and expanding private patronage, this scientific work fundamentally reshaped everyday life. Science and the American Century offers some of the most significant contributions to the study of the history of science, technology, and medicine during the twentieth century, all drawn from the pages of the journal Isis.
Fourteen essays from leading scholars are grouped into three sections, each presented in roughly chronological order. The first section charts several ways in which our knowledge of nature was cultivated, revealing how scientific practitioners and the public alike grappled with definitions of the “natural” as they absorbed and refracted global information. The essays in the second section investigate the changing attitudes and fortunes of scientists during and after World War II. The final section documents the intricate ways that science, as it advanced, became intertwined with social policies and the law.
This important and useful book provides a thoughtful and detailed overview for scholars and students of American history and the history of science, as well as for scientists and others who want to better understand modern science and science in America.
As the twentieth century drew to a close, computers, the Internet, and nanotechnology were central to modern American life. Yet the advances in physics underlying these applications are poorly understood and widely underappreciated by U.S. citizens today. In this concise overview, David C. Cassidy sharpens our perspective on modern physics by viewing this foundational science through the lens of America's engagement with the political events of a tumultuous century.
American physics first stirred in the 1890s-around the time x-rays and radioactivity were discovered in Germany-with the founding of graduate schools on the German model. Yet American research lagged behind the great European laboratories until highly effective domestic policies, together with the exodus of physicists from fascist countries, brought the nation into the first ranks of world research in the 1930s. The creation of the atomic bomb and radar during World War II ensured lavish government support for particle physics, along with computation, solid-state physics, and military communication. These advances facilitated space exploration and led to the global expansion of the Internet.
Well into the 1960s, physicists bolstered the United States' international status, and the nation repaid the favor through massive outlays of federal, military, and philanthropic funding. But gradually America relinquished its postwar commitment to scientific leadership, and the nation found itself struggling to maintain a competitive edge in science education and research. Today, American physicists, relying primarily on industrial funding, must compete with smaller, scrappier nations intent on writing their own brief history of physics in the twenty-first century.
Subversions of the American Century: Filipino Literature in Spanish and the Transpacific Transformation of the United States argues that the moment the United States became an overseas colonial power in 1898, American national identity was redefined across a global matrix. The Philippines, which the United States seized at that point from Spain and local revolutionaries, is therefore the birthplace of a new kind of America, one with a planetary reach that was, most profoundly, accompanied by resistance to that reach by local peoples.
Post-1898 Filipino literature in Spanish testifies crucially to this foregrounding fact of American global power, for it is the language of that tradition that speaks directly to the reality of one empire having wrested land from another. Yet this literature is invisible in American Studies programs, Asian Studies programs, Spanish and English departments, and everywhere else. Subversions of the American Century will change that. After Subversions, students and scholars in various American Studies disciplines as well as Asian, Spanish, and Comparative Literature fields will find it necessary to revisit and revamp the basic parameters by which they approach their subjects.
Why the American Century?
Olivier Zunz University of Chicago Press, 1998 Library of Congress HN57.Z83 1998 | Dewey Decimal 306.0973
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