After the Cold War: The Age of ‘Soft Power’

David Ellwood

in The Shock of America

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780198228790
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741739 | DOI:

Series: Oxford History of Modern Europe

After the Cold War: The Age of ‘Soft Power’

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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The chapter provides an overview of European responses to the surging economy, cultural inventiveness, and self-confidence of post Cold War America. It suggests that from this perspective, strong parallels can be seen between the 1920s and the 1990s: the prevalence of markets over states, the shift from interdependence to globalisation, swelling consumerism and hedonism — and critical responses of intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic to these trends — the onward march of US economic progress while Europe floundered. The chapter describes the anxiety of European élites to emulate the latest American models of growth, including their neo-liberalism and technological inventiveness (the era of Internet starts here, paralleling Hollywood's surge in the 1920s), and their difficulty in doing so. It also recounts the rise of polls on attitudes to America in Europe and elsewhere, and what these polls could and could not do for America's image in the world.

Keywords: European integration; internet; silicon valley; soft power; globalization; Hollywood; McDonalds; Washington Consensus; Lisbon Agenda

Chapter.  20746 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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