American Century: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

American Century[1][2] is a term used to describe the United States dominance of much of the 20th century. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the role of the United States was sole superpower at the end of the 20th century.




Term origin

The term was coined by Time publisher Henry Luce used to claim the historical role of the United States during the 20th century.[3] Henry Luce, the son of a missionary, in a 1941 Life magazine editorial 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 U.S. 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.[4]

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."[5]

American Century characteristics

Early characteristics

Beginning with the Spanish-American War, the United States played an important role in the world. The United States lost its pacific and regionally-bounded nature towards the end of the 19th Century. The government adopted protectionism after Spanish-American War and built up a powerful navy, the "Great White Fleet", to expand the reach of her power. When Theodore Roosevelt became President in 1901, he accelerated a foreign policy shift away from isolationism towards foreign intervention which had begun under his predecessor, William McKinley. The Philippine-American War arose from the on-going Philippine Revolution against imperialism.[6] Interventionism found its formal articulation in the 1904 Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, proclaiming a right for the United States to intervene to stabilize weak states in the Americas, a moment that underlined the emergent U.S. regional hegemony.

The United States also played an important role in the World Wars era (encompassing World War I and World War II).

Pax Americana

Pax Americana represents the relative liberal peace in the Western world, resulting from the preponderance of power enjoyed by the United States of America starting around the turn 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

The American Century existed through the Cold War and demonstrated the status of the United States as one 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. [7] America's geographic area composed the fourth largest country in the world, with an area of approximately 9.37 million km².[8] America's demographic exhibited a population of 248.7 million in 1990, at that time the fourth largest on Earth.[9]

Regarding the Mid-to-Late-20th Century characteristics, America's political status was a strong capitalist federation/constitutional republic. America had a permanent seat on the UN Security Council plus two allies with permanent seats. America had strong ties with Western Europe, Latin America, British Commonwealth, and several East Asian countries. America wielded influence by supporting right-wing dictatorships in undeveloped countries and democracies in developed countries.

Though, the term American Century refers not only to the political influence of the United States. As to the United States' economic influence, many states around the world would over the course of the 20th century adopt the economic policies of the Washington Consensus. America's economic force was powerful at the end of the century due to America being the largest economy in the world. America had large resources of minerals, energy resources, metals, and timber, a large and modernized farming industry and large industrial base. U.S. Dollar was the dominant world reserve currency under Bretton Woods. American systems were rooted in the western economic theory based on supply and demand: production determined by customers' demands. America was allied with G7 major economies. American economic policy prescriptions were the "standard" reform packages promoted for crisis-wracked developing countries by Washington, DC-based institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and the US Treasury Department.[10]

America's military strength was an essentially naval-based advanced military with the highest military expenditure in the world.[11] America had the world's largest navy with largest number of aircraft carriers, bases all over the world, particularly in an incomplete "ring" bordering the Warsaw Pact to the West, South and East. America had the largest nuclear arsenal in the world during the first half of the Cold War. America had one of the largest armies in the world. America had one of the two largest air forces in the world. America's powerful military allies in Western Europe (NATO) had their own nuclear capabilities. America possessed a global Intelligence network (CIA).

America's cultural impact is seen in the influential in music, TV, films, art, and fashion. Freedom of speech and other guaranteed rights for residents. In the cultural influence arena, American pop stars such as Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Madonna had become global celebrities.[12]


Critics 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 have stated that it is a matter of debate whether America's influence is leading it to be a hegemon or if it is losing its superpower status.[13]

See also

American Empire, Pax Americana
Project for the New American Century
African Century


  1. ^ Lamb, Brian, and Harold Evans. The American Century. West Lafayette, IN: C-SPAN Archives, 1999.
  2. ^ The American Century.
  3. ^ David Harvey, The New Imperialism, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003)
  4. ^ Luce, H. R: "The American Century" reprinted in The Ambiguous Legacy, M. J. Hogan, ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  5. ^ David Harvey, The New Imperialism, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003), 50.
  6. ^ John M. Gates, “War-Related Deaths in the Philippines”, Pacific Historical Review , v. 53, No. 3 (August, 1984), 367-378.
  7. ^ "Analyzing American Power in the Post-Cold War Era". Retrieved 2007-02-28.  
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Williamson, John: What Washington Means by Policy Reform, in: Williamson, John (ed.): Latin American Readjustment: How Much has Happened, Washington: Institute for International Economics 1989.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Biddle, Julian (2001). What Was Hot!: Five Decades of Pop Culture in America. New York: Citadel, p. ix. ISBN 0806523115.
  13. ^ Unger J (2008), U.S. no longer superpower, now a besieged global power, scholars say University of Illinois

External articles

  • Andrew Bacevich, Farewell to the American Century, Americans have perpetuated a mythic version of the past that never even approximated reality and today has become downright malignant.

Further reading

  • Michael J. Hogan, The Ambiguous Legacy: U.S. Foreign Relations in The "American Century" (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999). A symposium of scholarly articles assessing aspects of Luce's editorial and its significance originally published in Diplomatic History 23.2 (1999).


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