Irresistible Empire: America's Advance Through Twentieth-Century Europe

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, 2009 - Business & Economics - 586 pages
3 Reviews
The most significant conquest of the twentieth century may well have been the triumph of American consumer society over Europe's bourgeois civilization. It is this little-understood but world-shaking campaign that unfolds in Irresistible Empire, Victoria de Grazia's brilliant account of how the American standard of living defeated the European way of life and achieved the global cultural hegemony that is both its great strength and its key weakness today. De Grazia describes how, as America's market empire advanced with confidence through Europe, spreading consumer-oriented capitalism, all alternative strategies fell before it--first the bourgeois lifestyle, then the Third Reich's command consumption, and finally the grand experiment of Soviet-style socialist planning. Tracing the peculiar alliance that arrayed New World salesmanship, statecraft, and standardized goods against the Old World's values of status, craft, and good taste, Victoria de Grazia follows the United States' market-driven imperialism through a vivid series of cross-Atlantic incursions by the great inventions of American consumer society. We see Rotarians from Duluth in the company of the high bourgeoisie of Dresden; working-class spectators in ramshackle French theaters conversing with Garbo and Bogart; Stetson-hatted entrepreneurs from Kansas in the midst of fussy Milanese shoppers; and, against the backdrop of Rome's Spanish Steps and Paris's Opera Comique, Fast Food in a showdown with advocates for Slow Food. Demonstrating the intricacies of America's advance, de Grazia offers an intimate and historical dimension to debates over America's exercise of soft power and the process known as Americanization. She raises provocative questions about the quality of the good life, democracy, and peace that issue from the vaunted victory of mass consumer culture.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - DarthDeverell - LibraryThing

In Irresistible Empire: America’s Advance through 20th-Century Europe, Victoria de Grazia writes, “An empire without frontiers, [the Market Empire] arose during the first decade of the twentieth ... Read full review

IRRESISTIBLE EMPIRE: America's Advance Through 20th Century Europe

User Review  - Kirkus

A smart and engaging look at how US consumerism swept aside European cultural conservatism to create a transatlantic, transnational market.Globalism has an American face, writes de Grazia (History ... Read full review

Contents

The Service Ethic How Bourgeois Men Made Peace with Babbittry
15
A Decent Standard of Living How Europeans Were Measured by the American Way of Life
75
The Chain Store How Modern Distribution Dispossessed Commerce
130
BigBrand Goods How Marketing Outmaneuvered the Marketplace
184
Corporate Advertising How the Science of Publicity Subverted the Arts of Commerce
226
The Star System How Hollywood Turned Cinema Culture into Entertainment Value
284
The ConsumerCitizen How Europeans Traded Rights for Goods
336
Supermarketing How BigTime Merchandisers Leapfrogged over Local Grocers
376
A Model Mrs Consumer How Mass Commodities Settled into Hearth and Home
416
How the Slow Movement Put Perspective on the Fast Life
458
Notes
483
Bibliographic Essay
547
Acknowledgments
557
Index
561
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 2 - Lift your eyes to the horizons of business; do not look too close at the little processes with which you are concerned, but let your thoughts and your imaginations run abroad throughout the whole world, and with the inspiration of the thought that you are Americans and are meant to carry liberty and justice and the principles of humanity wherever you go, go out and sell goods that will make the world more comfortable and more happy, and convert them to the principles of America.

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (2009)

Victoria de Grazia is Professor of History and Director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Columbia University. She is the author of "How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922-1945" (California, 1992). Ellen Furlough is Associate Professor of History at Kenyon College and author of "Consumer Cooperation in France" (1991).

Bibliographic information