Wednesday, 21 July 2010

10 ideas for the next 10 Years: New American Century

ideas_mapping_0322.jpgTime Magazine has published a fascinating series of short articles: 10 ideas for the next Century.  Over the next few weeks I'll be looking at my looking at the ones that most interest me.

1. The Next American Century -  The end of the Second World War saw the USA emerge as the dominant force in the world, a position that was strengthened by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many now suggest that this pre-eminence is now under threat from the east - with China and India posing a direct challenge.

Andres Martinez argues that talk of America's decline is overblown. While the influence of the 'new' powers is increasing, the USA will remain the clear world leader for the foreseeable future.

It's true that Brand America took a hit this decade. The global superpower botched an election at home and an occupation overseas. Its vaunted financial markets were roiled by sketchy accounting early in the decade, then triggered a global economic crisis later on, thanks to Wall Street's leveraged gamble that it had conquered risk once and for all. All these missteps dented the U.S.'s credibility but  .. times of economic dislocation only accentuate America's competitive advantage — its nimbleness and adaptability.
With only 5% of the world's population, the U.S. produces a quarter of the world's economic output. Even as the global economic crisis led to the expansion of the G-7 (or G-8, depending on who's counting) into the G-20, none of the newcomers offer a compelling challenge to the American way ...

 This influence is most striking in the cultural sphere:

there are as many people studying English in China (or playing basketball, for that matter) as there are people in the U.S., seven of the 10 most watched TV shows around the world are American, Avatar is the top-grossing film of all time in China, and the world is as fixated on U.S. brands as ever, which is why U.S. multinationals from McDonald's to Nike book more than half their revenue overseas. If you bring together teenagers from Nigeria, Sweden, South Korea and Argentina — to pick a random foursome — what binds these kids together in some kind of community is American culture: the music, the Hollywood fare, the electronic games, Google, American consumer brands ....The fact that the rest of the world is becoming more like us — in ways good and bad — underscores the extent to which we are living in an American century,

Despite this dominance, the USA is surprisingly riven by self-doubt

one of the strongest impressions someone has on arriving in the U.S. are 1) what a great country this seems to be, and 2) what a mess it must be, judging by the tenor of news coverage and political discourse. In most places, those two are reversed. Overwrought, constant hand-wringing about the nation's decline is one of America's competitive advantages, reflecting high standards and expectations — what Reinhold Niebuhr described as the hubris of a nation's "dreams of managing history." 
Here's an interesting side-note on attitudes to America, which in Europe can be ambivalent at best. I have - perhaps unhealthy - enthusiasm for the country and was looking for  a word to describe this feeling.  I found that there is no agreed term as you can see from the number of Google references here:

yankophile 945 americanophile 716 americophile 233 americaphile 150 usaphile 14 usphile 1

Contrast this with the situation for lovers of French, English, Chinese or Japanese culture

anglophile 102,000, francophile 84,700, japanophile 20,400, sinophile 3450

It may another American Century but the world is being dragged kicking and screaming to admit it.

Read more:,28804,1971133_1971110_1971104-2,00.html#ixzz0uJmXLgrY

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