9780674022348

Irresistible Empire

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780674022348

  • ISBN10:

    0674022343

  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2006-10-31
  • Publisher: Belknap Pr

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Summary

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.

Author Biography

Victoria de Grazia is Professor of History at Columbia University

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Fast Way to Peace 1(14)
1. The Service Ethic
How Bourgeois Men Made Peace with Babbittry
15(60)
2. A Decent Standard of Living
How Europeans Were Measured by the American Way of Life
75(55)
3. The Chain Store
How Modern Distribution Dispossessed Commerce
130(54)
4. Big-Brand Goods
How Marketing Outmaneuvered the Marketplace
184(42)
5. Corporate Advertising
How the Science of Publicity Subverted the Arts of Commerce
226(58)
6. The Star System
How Hollywood Turned Cinema Culture into Entertainment Value
284(52)
7. The Consumer-Citizen
How Europeans Traded Rights for Goods
336(40)
8. Supermarketing
How Big-Time Merchandisers Leapfrogged over Local Grocers
376(40)
9. A Model Mrs. Consumer
How Mass Commodities Settled into Hearth and Home
416(42)
Conclusion: How the Slow Movement Put
Perspective on the Fast Life
458(25)
Notes 483(64)
Bibliographic Essay 547(10)
Acknowledgments 557(4)
Index 561

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