American Century

The American Century[1][2] is a characterization of the period since the middle of the 20th century as being largely dominated by the United States in political, economic, and cultural terms. It is comparable to the description of the period 1815–1914 as Britain's Imperial Century.[3] The United States' influence grew throughout the 20th century, but became especially dominant after the end of World War II, when only two superpowers remained, the United States and the Soviet Union. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States remained the world's only superpower,[4] and became the hegemon, or what some have termed a hyperpower.[5]

United States of America
Flag of the United States
United States (orthographic projection)

Origin of the phrase

The term was coined by Time publisher Henry Luce to describe what he thought the role of the United States would be and should be during the 20th century.[6] Luce, the son of a missionary, in a February 17, 1941 Life magazine editorial[7] urged the United States to forsake isolationism for a missionary's role, acting as the world's Good Samaritan and spreading democracy. He called upon the US to enter World War II to defend democratic values:

Throughout the 17th century and the 18th century and the 19th century, this continent teemed with manifold projects and magnificent purposes. Above them all and weaving them all together into the most exciting flag of all the world and of all history was the triumphal purpose of freedom.

It is in this spirit that all of us are called, each to his own measure of capacity, and each in the widest horizon of his vision, to create the first great American Century.[8]

Democracy and other American ideals would "do their mysterious work of lifting the life of mankind from the level of the beasts to what the Psalmist called a little lower than the angels". Only under the American Century can the world "come to life in any nobility of health and vigor".[9]

According to David Harvey, Luce believed "the power conferred was global and universal rather than territorially specific, so Luce preferred to talk of an American century rather than an empire".[10] In the same article he called upon United States "to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit".[11]

Early characteristics

Post-Spanish–American War map of "Greater America"

Beginning at the end of the 19th century, with the Spanish–American War in 1898 and the Boxer Rebellion, the United States began to play a more prominent role in the world beyond the North American continent. The government adopted protectionism after the Spanish–American War to develop its native industry and built up the navy, the "Great White Fleet". When Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901, he accelerated a foreign policy shift away from isolationism and towards foreign involvement, a process which had begun under his predecessor William McKinley.

For instance, the United States fought the Philippine–American War against the First Philippine Republic to solidify its control over the newly acquired Philippines.[12] In 1904, Roosevelt committed the United States to building the Panama Canal, creating the Panama Canal Zone. Interventionism found its formal articulation in the 1904 Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, proclaiming a right for the United States to intervene anywhere in the Americas, a moment that underlined the emergent US regional hegemony.

After the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the United States pursued a policy of non-intervention, avoiding conflict while trying to broker a peace. President Woodrow Wilson later argued that the war was so important that the US had to have a voice in the peace conference.[13] The United States was never formally a member of the Allies but entered the war in 1917 as a self-styled "Associated Power". Initially the United States had a small army, but, after the passage of the Selective Service Act, it drafted 2.8 million men,[14] and, by summer 1918, was sending 10,000 fresh soldiers to France every day. The war ended in 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles. The United States then adopted a policy of isolationism, having refused to endorse the 1919 Versailles Treaty or formally enter the League of Nations.[15]

During the interwar period, economic protectionism took hold in the United States, particularly as a result of the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act which is credited by economists with the prolonging and worldwide propagation of the Great Depression.[16]:33 From 1934, trade liberalization began to take place through the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act.

With the onset of World War II in 1939, Congress loosened the Neutrality Acts of 1930s but remained opposed to entering the European war.[17] In 1940, the United States ranked 18th in terms of military power.[18][19][20] The Neutrality Patrol had US destroyers fighting at sea, but no state of war had been declared by Congress. American public opinion remained isolationist. The 800,000-member America First Committee vehemently opposed any American intervention in the European conflict, even as the US sold military aid to the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union through the Lend-Lease program.

In the 1941 State of the Union address, known as the Four Freedoms speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a break with the tradition of non-interventionism. He outlined the US role in helping allies already engaged in warfare. By August, President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had drafted the Atlantic Charter to define goals for the post-war world.[21] In December 1941, Japan attacked American and British holdings with near-simultaneous offensives against Southeast Asia and the Central Pacific including an attack on the US fleet at Pearl Harbor.[22] These attacks led the United States and United Kingdom to declare war on Japan. Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, which the United States reciprocated.[23]

In an effort to maintain peace after World War II,[24] the Allies formed the United Nations, which came into existence on October 24, 1945,[25] and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, as a common standard for all member states.[26] The U.S. worked closely with the United Kingdom to establish the IMF, World Bank and NATO.[27][28]

Pax Americana

Pax Americana represents the relative peace in the Western world, resulting in part from the preponderance of power enjoyed by the United States of America starting around the middle of the 20th century. Although the term finds its primary utility in the late 20th century, it has been used in other times in the 20th century. Its modern connotations concern the peace established after the end of World War II in 1945.

Post-1945 characteristics

American Empire1
Map of United States at furthest extent

The American Century existed through the Cold War and demonstrated the status of the United States as the foremost of the world's two superpowers. After the Cold War, the most common belief held that only the United States fulfilled the criteria to be considered a superpower.[4] Its geographic area composed the fourth-largest state in the world, with an area of approximately 9.37 million km2.[29] The population of the US was 248.7 million in 1990, at that time the third-largest nation.[30]

In the mid-to-late 20th century, the political status of the US was defined as a strongly capitalist federation and constitutional republic. It had a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council plus two allies with permanent seats, the United Kingdom and France. The US had strong ties with capitalist Western Europe, Latin America, British Commonwealth, and several East Asian countries (Korea, Taiwan, Japan). It allied itself with both right-wing dictatorships and capitalist democracies.[31]

The American Century includes the political influence of the United States but also its economic influence. Many states around the world would, over the course of the 20th century, adopt the economic policies of the Washington Consensus, sometimes against the wishes of their populations. The economic force of the US was powerful at the end of the century due to it being by far the largest economy in the world. The US had large resources of minerals, energy resources, metals, and timber, a large and modernized farming industry and large industrial base. The United States dollar is the dominant world reserve currency under the Bretton Woods system. US systems were rooted in capitalist economic theory based on supply and demand, that is, production determined by customers' demands. America was allied with the G7 major economies. US economic policy prescriptions were the "standard" reform packages promoted for crisis-wracked developing countries by Washington, DC-based international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, as well as the US Treasury Department.[32]

The military of the United States was a naval-based advanced military with by far the highest military expenditure in the world.[33] The United States Navy was the world's largest navy, with the largest number of aircraft carriers, bases all over the world (particularly in an incomplete "ring" bordering the Warsaw Pact states to the west, south and east). The US had the largest nuclear arsenal in the world during the first half of the Cold War, one of the largest armies in the world and one of the two largest air forces in the world. Its powerful military allies in Western Europe (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation states) had their own nuclear capabilities. The US also possessed a powerful global intelligence network in the Central Intelligence Agency.

The cultural impact of the US, often known as Americanization, is seen in the influence on other countries of US music, TV, films, art, and fashion, as well as the desire for freedom of speech and other guaranteed rights its residents enjoy. US pop stars such as Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Madonna have become global celebrities.[34]

Criticism and usage

Critics have condemned Luce's "jingoistic missionary zeal".[35] Others have noted the end of the 20th century and the American Century, most famously the late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson who titled his autobiography Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star Crossed Child in the Last Days of the American Century.

With the advent of the new millennium, critics from the University of Illinois stated that it was a matter of debate whether America was losing its superpower status, especially in relation to China's rise.[36] Other analysts have made the case for the "American Century" fitting neatly between America's late entry into World War I in 1917 and the inauguration of its 45th President in 2017.[37]

Other scholars, such as George Friedman, stipulate that the 21st century will be the U.S. century: "The twenty-first century will be the American century."[38]

See also


  1. ^ Lamb, Brian, and Harold Evans. The American Century. West Lafayette, IN: C-SPAN Archives, 1999.
  2. ^ The American Century.
  3. ^ Hyam, Ronald (2002). Britain's Imperial Century, 1815–1914: A Study of Empire and Expansion. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-7134-3089-9. Retrieved December 15, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Analyzing American Power in the Post-Cold War Era". Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved February 28, 2007.
  5. ^ Definition and Use of the Word Hyperpower
  6. ^ David Harvey, The New Imperialism, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003)
  7. ^ Luce, Henry (February 17, 1941) The American Century, Life Magazine
  8. ^ Luce, H. R: "The American Century" reprinted in The Ambiguous Legacy, M. J. Hogan, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  9. ^ Henry Luce, "The American Century", Life, (February 17, 1941): pp. 64–65,
  10. ^ David Harvey, The New Imperialism, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 50.
  11. ^ Michael J. Hogan, The ambiguous legacy: U.S. foreign relations in the "American century", (Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 20.
  12. ^ John M. Gates (August 1984) "War-Related Deaths in the Philippines" Pacific Historical Review, v. 53, no. 3, 367–78. Archived June 29, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Karp 1979
  14. ^ "Selective Service System: History and Records". Archived from the original on May 7, 2009. Retrieved July 27, 2010.
  15. ^ Kennedy, David M., Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) 386
  16. ^ Eun, Cheol S.; Resnick, Bruce G. (2011). International Financial Management, 6th Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin. ISBN 978-0-07-803465-7.
  17. ^ Schmitz 2000, p. 124.
  18. ^ "WWII Overview". The National WWII Museum. Archived from the original on March 5, 2015. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  19. ^ "Excerpt – General George C. Marshall: Strategic Leadership and the Challenges of Reconstituting the Army, 1939–41". Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  20. ^ "U.S. army was smaller than the army for Portugal before World War II". Politifact. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  21. ^ Langer and Gleason, chapter 21
  22. ^ Wohlstetter 1962, pp. 341–43.
  23. ^ Dunn 1998, p. 157
  24. ^ Yoder 1997, p. 39.
  25. ^ "History of the UN". United Nations. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  26. ^ Waltz 2002
  27. ^ "The "Special Relationship" between Great Britain and the United States Began with FDR". Roosevelt Institute. July 22, 2010. Retrieved January 24, 2018. and the joint efforts of both powers to create a new post-war strategic and economic order through the drafting of the Atlantic Charter; the establishment of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; and the creation of the United Nations.
  28. ^ "Remarks by the President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron in Joint Press Conference". April 22, 2016. Retrieved January 24, 2018. That's what we built after World War II. The United States and the UK designed a set of institutions—whether it was the United Nations, or the Bretton Woods structure, IMF, World Bank, NATO, across the board.
  29. ^ US geography
  30. ^ US Census
  31. ^ Stephen Kinzer (2007). Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. Times Books.
  32. ^ Williamson, John: What Washington Means by Policy Reform Archived June 25, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, in: Williamson, John (ed.): Latin American Readjustment: How Much has Happened, Washington: Institute for International Economics 1989.
  33. ^ Military spending
  34. ^ Biddle, Julian (2001). What Was Hot!: Five Decades of Pop Culture in America. New York: Citadel, p. ix. ISBN 0-8065-2311-5.
  35. ^ Michael, Terry (February 16, 2011) The End of the American Century, Reason
  36. ^ Unger J (2008), U.S. no longer superpower, now a besieged global power, scholars say Archived October 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine University of Illinois
  37. ^ Pascoe, Michael (January 20, 2017). "Donald Trump in the White House is the end of the 'American Century'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved January 21, 2017.
  38. ^ Friedman, George, The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, p. 18


  • Dunn, Dennis J. (1998). Caught Between Roosevelt & Stalin: America's Ambassadors to Moscow. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-2023-2.
  • Hogan, Michael J. (1999). The Ambiguous Legacy: U.S. Foreign Relations in The "American Century". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-77019-4.
    A symposium of scholarly articles assessing aspects of Luce's editorial and its significance originally published in Diplomatic History 23 (2 & 3), 1999
  • Karp, Walter (1979), The Politics of War (1st ed.), ISBN 0-06-012265-X, OCLC 4593327, Wilson's maneuvering US into war
  • Langer, William L.; Gleason, S. Everett (1953), The Undeclared War 1940–1941: The World Crisis and American Foreign Policy, Harper & Brothers, ISBN 978-1258766986
  • Northedge, FS (1986), The League of Nations: Its Life and Times, 1920–1946, New York: Holmes & Meier, ISBN 0-7185-1316-9
  • Painter, David S. (2012). "Oil and the American Century" (PDF). The Journal of American History. 99 (1): 24–39. doi:10.1093/jahist/jas073.
  • Schmitz, David F. (2000), Henry L. Stimson: The First Wise Man, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 978-0-8420-2632-1
  • Waltz, Susan (2002). "Reclaiming and Rebuilding the History of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights". Third World Quarterly. 23 (3): 437–48. doi:10.1080/01436590220138378. JSTOR 3993535.
  • Wohlstetter, Roberta (1962), Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision, Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, ISBN 978-0-8047-0597-4
  • Yoder, Amos (1997). The Evolution of the United Nations System (3rd ed.). London & Washington, DC: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 1-56032-546-1.

Further reading

External links

Agave americana

Agave americana, common names sentry plant, century plant, maguey or American aloe, is a species of flowering plant in the family Asparagaceae, native to Mexico, and the United States in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. Today, it is cultivated worldwide as an ornamental plant. It has become naturalized in many regions, including the West Indies, parts of South America, the southern Mediterranean Basin, and parts of Africa, India, China, Thailand, and Australia.Despite the common name "American aloe", it is not closely related to plants in the genus Aloe.

American Century (comics)

American Century was a comic book series published by DC Comics as a part of the Vertigo imprint starting in early 2001. It was co-written by Howard Chaykin and David Tischman.The story concerned a former American pilot who fakes his death and goes on the run in the 1950s. Chaykin intended it as a "left-wing version of Steve Canyon", and wrote all of the issues. The comic ran for approximately two years.

American Century Championship

The American Century Championship is a celebrity golf tournament in Nevada, United States. It is held during the second full week of July at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Stateline, at the shore of Lake Tahoe. The course is at the southeast edge of the lake, at an average elevation exceeding 6,230 feet (1,900 m) above sea level.

Bill Kristol

William Kristol (; born December 23, 1952) is an American neoconservative political analyst. He is the founder and former editor-at-large of the defunct political magazine The Weekly Standard and a political commentator on several networks. Though a Republican, Kristol is a vocal critic of Donald Trump.Kristol is associated with a number of prominent conservative think tanks. He was chairman of the New Citizenship Project from 1997 to 2005. In 1997, he co-founded the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) with Robert Kagan. He is a member of the board of trustees for the free-market Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a member of the Policy Advisory Board for the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and a director of the Foreign Policy Initiative. He is also one of the three board members of Keep America Safe, a pro-war think tank co-founded by Liz Cheney and Debra Burlingame, and serves on the board of the Zionist Emergency Committee for Israel and the Susan B. Anthony List. He has featured in a web program of the Foundation for Constitutional Government, Conversations with Bill Kristol, since 2014.

Chinese Century

The Chinese Century (simplified Chinese: 中国世纪; traditional Chinese: 中國世紀; pinyin: Zhōngguó Shìjì) is a neologism suggesting that the 21st century will be geopolitically dominated by the People's Republic of China, similar to how "the American Century" refers to the 20th century and "Pax Britannica" ("British Peace") refers to the 19th. The phrase is used particularly in the assertion that the economy of China could overtake the economy of the United States as the largest national economy in the world, a position it held from 1500 to 1830 A.D.China created Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as alternative to NATO and created Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and New Development Bank as both alternatives to World Bank and International Monetary Fund. China further created One Belt, One Road policy initiative with future investments of almost $1 trillion for push to take a bigger role in global affairs.Moreover, China plans to use the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership as counter to Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Division of Korea

The Division of Korea began at the end of World War II in 1945. With the defeat of Japan, the Soviet Union occupied the north of Korea, and the United States occupied the south, with the boundary between their zones being the 38th parallel.

With the onset of the Cold War, negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union failed to lead to an independent and unified Korea. In 1948, UN-supervised elections were held in the US-occupied south only. Syngman Rhee won the election while Kim Il-sung was appointed as the leader of North Korea. This led to the establishment of the Republic of Korea in South Korea, which was promptly followed by the establishment of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in North Korea. The United States supported the South, the Soviet Union supported the North, and each government claimed sovereignty over the whole Korean peninsula.

In 1950, North Korea invaded the South to try to reunify the peninsula under its communist rule. The subsequent Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953, ended with a stalemate and has left the two Koreas separated by the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) up to the present day. Diplomatic initiatives have so far failed to end the division.

Harold Evans

Sir Harold Matthew Evans (born 28 June 1928) is a British-American journalist and writer who was editor of The Sunday Times from 1967 to 1981.

In 1984 he moved to the United States, where he had leading positions in journalism with U.S. News & World Report, The Atlantic Monthly, and the New York Daily News. In 1986 he founded Condé Nast Traveler. He has written various books on history and journalism, with his The American Century (1998) receiving particular acclaim. In 2000, he retired from leadership positions in journalism to spend more time on his writing. Since 2001, Evans has served as editor-at-large of The Week magazine and, since 2005, he has been a contributor to The Guardian and BBC Radio 4. Evans was invested as a Knight Bachelor in 2004, for services to journalism. On 13 June 2011, Evans was appointed editor-at-large of the Reuters news agency.

Henry Luce

Henry Robinson Luce (April 3, 1898 – February 28, 1967) was an American magazine magnate who was called "the most influential private citizen in the America of his day". He launched and closely supervised a stable of magazines that transformed journalism and the reading habits of millions of Americans. Time summarized and interpreted the week's news; Life was a picture magazine of politics, culture, and society that dominated American visual perceptions in the era before television; Fortune reported on national and international business; and Sports Illustrated explored the world of sports. Counting his radio projects and newsreels, Luce created the first multimedia corporation. He envisaged that the United States would achieve world hegemony, and, in 1941, he declared the 20th century would be the "American Century".

John Lehman

John Francis Lehman Jr. (born September 14, 1942) is an American investment banker and writer who served as Secretary of the Navy (1981–1987) in the Ronald Reagan administration where he promoted the creation of a 600-ship Navy. From 2003 to 2004 he was a member of the 9/11 Commission.

Lehman currently serves on the National Security Advisory Council for the Center for Security Policy (CSP), and on the board of trustees for the think tank Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI). Lehman was also a member of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, commonly called the 9/11 Commission, and has signed some policy letters produced by the Project for the New American Century. He also served as an advisor to Sen. John McCain for the 2008 presidential race, and for Mitt Romney in his 2012 bid.

Marco Rubio 2016 presidential campaign

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Monthly Review

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Project for the New American Century

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Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography

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Ray Romano

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Rick Rhoden

Richard Alan Rhoden (born May 16, 1953) is a professional golfer and was a Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher. During his 16-year baseball career, he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1974–1978), Pittsburgh Pirates (1979–1986) and Houston Astros (1989) of the National League; and the New York Yankees (1987–1988) of the American League.

Robert Kagan

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Time (magazine)

Time is an American weekly news magazine and news website published in New York City. It was founded in 1923 and originally run by Henry Luce. A European edition (Time Europe, formerly known as Time Atlantic) is published in London and also covers the Middle East, Africa, and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition (Time Asia) is based in Hong Kong. The South Pacific edition, which covers Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, is based in Sydney. In December 2008, Time discontinued publishing a Canadian advertiser edition.Time has the world's largest circulation for a weekly news magazine. The print edition has a readership of 26 million, 20 million of whom are based in the United States. In mid-2012, its circulation was over three million, which had lowered to two million by late 2017.Richard Stengel was the managing editor from May 2006 to October 2013, when he joined the U.S. State Department. Nancy Gibbs was the managing editor from September 2013 until September 2017. She was succeeded by Edward Felsenthal, who had been Time's digital editor.

Vinyl (TV series)

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From a teleplay by Winter and George Mastras, and story by Cohen, Jagger, Scorsese and Winter, the pilot episode was directed by Scorsese. The first season consisted of ten episodes. Scorsese had hoped to direct further episodes of the series.

Winter left his position as showrunner at the end of the first season due to creative differences, leaving the position to Scott Z. Burns.HBO announced the renewal of Vinyl for a second season on February 18, 2016, soon after the pilot episode premiered. However, on June 22, 2016, HBO reversed that decision and cancelled the series. HBO head of programming Casey Bloys said of the decision, "It didn't land. With limited resources, we didn't think the retooling was worth the producers' time if it would only move the needle a little bit." In October 2018, Scorsese admitted at being heartbroken over the cancellation, describing the decision as "tragic", while also saying that in his opinion, the series would have had a better chance at succeeding if he had been more hands-on with his involvement and directed all episodes.

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