- American Century
:"This article is for the term used for American power in the 20th century. For the investment company, see
American Century Investments. For the comic book, see American Century (comics)."American Century is a term coined by "Time" publisher Henry Luceused to claim the historical role of the United Statesduring the 20th century and 21st century. [David Harvey, "The New Imperialism", (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003)] Luce, the son of a missionary, in a 1941 "Life" magazine editorial urged the United States to forsake isolationismfor a missionary's role, acting as the world's Good Samaritanand spreading democracy. 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." [David Harvey, "The New Imperialism", (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003), 50.] He also called upon the U.S. to enter World War IIto 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. [Luce, H. R: "The American Century" reprinted in "The Ambiguous Legacy", M. J. Hogan, ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.]
Today, it is usually used to illustrate United States dominance of much of the 20th century, beginning with the
Spanish-American Warand the important role played by the United States in World War II, continuing on through the Cold Warstatus of the United States as one of the world's two superpowers, and ending with the role of the United Statesas sole superpower on from the 1990s. It refers not only to the political influence of the United States, but also its economic influence, as many states around the world would over the course of the 20th century adopt the economic policies of the Washington Consensus, and its cultural influence.
Critics of the term regard it as overemphasizing the role played by the United States on the world stage.
The name of the
thinktank Project for the New American Centuryimplicitly suggests that the 20th century was an American Century and that a goal of the thinktank is to make the 21st century also an American Century.
With the advent of the new
millennium, critics have been proposing the death of the American Century, most famously the late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompsonwho titled his autobiography "Kingdom Of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of A Star Crossed Child in the Last Days of the American Century".
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