In countries outside of the United States, americanization or americanisation is the influence American culture has on the culture of other countries, such as their popular culture, media, cuisine, technology, business practices, or political techniques. The term has been used since at least 1907. While not necessarily a hostile term, it is most often used by critics in the target country worried about the tendency. Americanization has become more prevalent since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989-91, and especially since the advent of widespread high speed Internet use starting in the mid-2000s. In Europe, in recent years there is growing concern about Americanization through Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Uber, among many other Internet-oriented corporations based in the U.S. European governments have increasingly expressed concern regarding privacy issues, as well as antitrust and taxation issues regarding the new American giants. The Wall Street Journal in 2015 reported "deep concerns in Europe’s highest policy circles about the power of U.S. technology companies."
Media and popular culture
Hollywood (the American film and television industry) since the 1920s has dominated most of the world's media markets. It is the chief medium by which people across the globe see American fashions, customs, scenery and way of life.
In general, the United States government plays only a facilitating role in the dissemination of films, television, books, journals and so on. However, during the occupation of Germany and Japan after World War II, the government played a major role in restructuring the media in those countries to eliminate totalitarianism and promote democracy. In Germany, the American occupation headquarters, Office of Military Government, United States (OMGUS) in 1945 began its own newspaper based in Munich. Die Neue Zeitung was edited by German and Jewish émigrés who fled to the United States before the war. Its mission was to destroy Nazi cultural remnants, and encourage democracy by exposing Germans to how American culture operated. There was great detail on sports, politics, business, Hollywood, and fashions, as well as international affairs.
Copies of American-based TV programs are re-broadcast around the world, many of them through American broadcasters and their subsidiaries (such as HBO Asia, CNBC Europe and CNN International). Many of these distributors broadcast mainly American programming on their TV channels. In 2006, a survey of 20 countries by Radio Times found seven American shows in the ten most-watched: CSI: Miami, Lost, Desperate Housewives, The Simpsons, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Without a Trace and The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.
American films are also extremely popular around the world, often dominating cinemas. Out of the top-50 highest-grossing films of all time, 35 of them were made in the United States, with the top-3 all being American. Often part of the negotiating in free trade agreements between the U.S. and other nations involves screen quotas. One such case is Mexico, which abolished screen quotas following the establishment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the U.S. Recently South Korea has agreed to reduce its quota under pressure from the U.S. as part of a free trade deal.
Many U.S.-based artists, such as Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson are recognized worldwide and have sold over 500 million albums each. Michael Jackson's album Thriller, at 100 million sales, is the best-selling album of all time.
American business and brands
Of the top ten global brands, seven are based in the United States. Coca-Cola, which holds the top spot, is often viewed as a symbol of Americanization. Fast food is also often viewed as being a symbol of U.S. marketing dominance. Companies such as McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Domino's Pizza among others have numerous outlets around the world.
Many of the world's biggest computer companies are also U.S. based, such as Microsoft, Apple, Intel, Dell and IBM, and much of the software bought worldwide is created by U.S. based companies. Carayannis and Campbell note that "The USA occupies, also in global terms, a very strong position in the software sector."
By 1900 observers saw "Americanization" as synonymous with progress and innovation. In Germany in the 1920s, the American efficiency movement was called "rationalization" and it was a powerful social and economic force. In part it looked explicitly at American models, especially Fordism. "Rationalization" meant higher productivity and greater efficiency, promising science would bring prosperity. More generally it promised a new level of modernity and was applied to economic production and consumption as well as public administration. Various versions of rationalization were promoted by industrialists and social democrats, by engineers and architects, by educators and academics, by middle class feminists and social workers, by government officials and politicians of many parties. As ideology and practice, rationalization challenged and transformed not only machines, factories, and vast business enterprises but also the lives of middle-class and working-class Germans.
During the Cold War, the Americanization was the method to counter the processes of Sovietization around the world. Education, schools, and universities in particularly, became the main target for Americanization. However, the resistance to Americanization of the university community restrained it.
During the 15 years from 1950 to 1965, American investments in Europe soared by 800% to $13.9 billion, and in the European Economic Community rose 10 times to $6.25 billion. Europe's share of American investments increased from 15% to 28%. The investments were of very high visibility and generated much talk of Americanization. Even so, American investments in Europe represented only 50% of the total European investment and American-owned companies in the European Economic Community employ only 2 or 3% of the total labor force. The basic reason for the U.S. investments is no longer lower production costs, faster economic growth, or higher profits in Europe, but the desire to maintain a competitive position based largely on American technological superiority. Opposition to U.S. investments, originally confined to France, later spread to other European countries. Public opinion began to resent American advertising and business methods, personnel policies, and the use of the English language by American companies. Criticism was also directed toward the international currency system which was blamed for inflationary tendencies as a result of the dominant position of the U.S. dollar. However, by the 1970s European investments in the U.S. increased even more rapidly than vice versa, and Geir Lundestad finds there was less talk of the Americans buying Europe.
Americanization has become more prevalent since the collapse of communism in 1989-91. Until the late 1980s, the Communist press could be counted on to be especially critical of the United States. To some extent Russia continued that role under Vladimir Putin and there are similar tendencies in China. Putin in 2013 published an op-ed in the New York Times attacking the American tendency to see itself as an exceptional, indispensable nation. "It is extremely dangerous," Putin warned, "to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation."
A new dimension of anti-Americanism is fear of the pervasiveness of American Internet technology. Americanization has arrived through widespread high speed Internet and smart phone technology since 2008, with a large fraction of the new apps and hardware being designed in Silicon Valley. In Europe, there is growing concern about excess Americanization through Google, Facebook, Twitter, the iPhone and Uber, among many other American Internet-based corporations. European governments have increasingly expressed concern regarding privacy issues, as well as antitrust and taxation issues regarding the new American giants. There is fear that they are significantly evading taxes, and posting information that may violate European privacy laws. The Wall Street Journal in 2015 reported "deep concerns in Europe’s highest policy circles about the power of U.S. technology companies."
Berghahn (2010) analyzes the debate on the usefulness of the concepts of 'Americanization' and 'Westernization'. He reviews the recent research on the European-American relationship during the Cold War that has dealt with the cultural impact of the United States upon Europe. He then discusses the relevant work on this subject in the fields of economic and business history. Overall, the article tries to bring out that those who have applied the concept of 'Americanization' to their research on cultural and/or economic history have been well aware of the complexities of trans-Atlantic relations in this period, whether they were viewed as a two-way exchange or as a process of circulation.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Americanization.|
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