The American Ascendancy: How the United States Gained and Wielded Global Dominance / Edition 1

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A simple question lurks amid the considerable controversy created by recent U.S. policy: what road did Americans travel to reach their current global preeminence? Taking the long historical view, Michael Hunt demonstrates that wealth, confidence, and leadership were key elements to America's ascent. In an analytic narrative that illuminates the past rather than indulges in political triumphalism, he provides crucial insights into the country's problematic place in the world today.

Hunt charts America's rise to global power from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to a culminating multilayered dominance achieved in the mid-twentieth century that has led to unanticipated constraints and perplexities over the last several decades. Themes that figure prominently in his account include the rise of the American state and a nationalist ideology and the domestic effects and international spread of consumer society. He examines how the United States remade great power relations, fashioned limits for the third world, and shaped our current international economic and cultural order. Hunt concludes by addressing current issues, such as how durable American power really is and what options remain for America's future. His provocative exploration will engage anyone concerned about the fate of our republic.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
This engaging history of the United States' rise to global dominance explains how a weak and peripheral New World republic turned itself into the preeminent power of the twentieth century.—Foreign Affairs

Hunt writes with clarity and verve. . . . [This] should be on the desk of every candidate for national office.—American Historical Review

A masterly overview of America's rise to its current status. . . . Given this outstanding book's breadth—both its temporal scope and the issues covered—a brief review cannot do it justice.—Journal of American History

Hunt is a serious scholar, and there is much to learn from and about his explanation of America's ascendancy. . . . [A] sound study.—MetroMagazine

"This book is a marvel of research (the annotated bibliography itself is worth the price) and just plain thoughtfulness. . . . Michael Hunt has produced a study that both traditionalists and new diplomatic historians—as well as the public, including politicians—should read, and read again. . . . Students of American history will, I expect, look to this book as a standard of sweeping interpretation and information that surpasses all before it.—Thomas W. Zeiler, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews

Compact but still reasonably detailed as well as illuminating. . . . Traces the broad lines of the national experience placing them with knowledge and balance within the context of global transformations.—Ricerche di Storia Politica

Displays an impressive command of the historical literature, an ability to tackle important contemporary questions, and a capacity to make connections about disparate problems in American history. . . . Hunt's informed review of how the U.S. reached its present dilemma will provide a much-needed historical perspective. Policy makers would do well to ponder this sobering record of how a national search for ascendancy can produce as many intractable problems as it solves.—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

A provocative book. . . . An impressively argued interpretation.—The International History Review

Provides crucial insights into the nation's controversial role in the world today and prospects for the durability of U.S. power.—Carolina Arts & Sciences

Broadly conceived, beautifully organized, lucidly written, and richly documented. . . . Essential.—CHOICE

Foreign Affairs
This engaging history of the United States' rise to global dominance explains how a weak and peripheral New World republic turned itself into the preeminent power of the twentieth century. Hunt, lacking a strong theoretical core or striking organizing idea, tells a mostly familiar story that emphasizes economics, state building, and diplomacy. A precondition for dominance was the extraordinary growth of the nation's economy from the nineteenth century onward, generating unmatched wealth and technological capabilities. But material prosperity depended on the building of a strong modern state that could govern and wield geopolitical power. Moreover, the "American century" was planned and engineered by political elites who embraced a distinctive American nationalism of "greatness"; it was not something that emerged inevitably from deeper historical forces. Accordingly, Hunt focuses on presidents and their aggrandizing decisions: William McKinley and the war with Spain, Woodrow Wilson and his plans to remake the world, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and the building of the postwar order. He argues that the American "project" has not been empire but rather a more consensual -- if still hierarchical -- international order.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807830901
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 4/10/2007
  • Series: H. Eugene and Lillian Youngs Lehman Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael H. Hunt is Everett H. Emerson Professor of History Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is author of nine previous books, including The World Transformed: 1945 to the Present; Lyndon Johnson's War: America's Cold War Crusade in Vietnam, 1945-1968; and Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy.

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Table of Contents

Contents Introduction: Framing the Question
1. Nineteenth-Century Foundations
2. Grand Projects, 1898-1920
3. The American Way in a Fragmenting World, 1921-1940
4. Reaching for Geopolitical Dominance, 1941-1968
5. In the American Image, 1941-1968
6. The Third-World Challenge, 1941-1968
7. Disoriented Giant, 1968-1991
8. The Neoliberal Triumph, 1991-
Conclusion: Hegemony in Question

A Guide to the Literature

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