In This Review

Why the American Century?
Why the American Century?
By Olivier Zunz
University of Chicago Press, 1998, 232 pp

Like Rodgers, Zunz pays tribute to the study of social ideas, but he extends his reach even further. He carefully separates the "American century," a social and economic phenomenon, from the "Pax Americana," the global outcome of American intervention in the rest of the world. He concentrates on the former rather than the latter, seeing a remarkable, distinctive transformation of science and industry and the resulting reorganization of society. He follows the careers of industrial inventors, engineers, social scientists, and institution builders. He traces the proliferation of industrial laboratories. He stresses society's growing pluralism and observes how Americans applied social science techniques to define the business practices of mass consumption. Zunz then combines these diverse stories to weave a unique pattern of American development. While much of the world struggles to decide whether to follow the American model, this book is a guide to just how America became what it is today. Zunz thus yields deep insights not only into America's recent prosperity but also on the contrasting fortunes of aspiring rivals -- including a fascinating chapter on how Americans exported some of their principles and methods to Japan. An eye-opening introduction to the shaping of modern America.