The world of the 20th century, if it is to come to life in health and vigor, must be an American Century . . . our Century.-Henry Luce, "The American Century," Life, February 17, 1941.
DESPITE many qualifications, there are several senses in which Mr. Luce was right-senses in which this has turned out to be the American Century, far beyond anyone's poor power to add or detract. In all the unfolding indices of quantitative preëminence, the United States is indeed a new kind of power in the world. Our gross national product, our massive output of the food the world needs, the unequaled scale of our technology, the burgeoning talents that still pour by the millions from our troubled educational system, the qualitative skills of our manpower, the seed money with which for years we have capitalized the new world bank of the social sciences, the manifold horizons of the computerized century-all these and more testify to the steady pulsations from contemporary America which circle and recircle the globe. They evoke demands and cravings for things American, often precisely among those very people and governments most vitriolic about official American policy. America's great twentieth-century technological revolution sweeps across sovereignties, beats against Walls, and eats away at Iron Curtains. The full implications of this peaceful, pulsating phenomenon for those whose lives and livelihoods have hitherto been at the whim of managed societies-as well as for the interests and ambitions of those in charge of such societies-remain to be fully tested.
But there is much more to the century than that. Centuries have many dimensions. If the world's prominent men of a century ago were to rise today from their graves and look around them, who would be the most surprised? Who among them, politicians all, would be most transfixed by the ironies of history and the vagaries of circumstance? Where today would they find their lineal descendants? How far would they have to travel to feel at home again? Who continues their tradition? Across
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