The Great American Mission traces how America's global modernization efforts during the twentieth century were a means to remake the world in its own image. David Ekbladh shows that the emerging concept of modernization combined existing development ideas from the Depression. He describes how ambitious New Deal programs like the Tennessee Valley Authority became symbols of American liberalism's ability to marshal the social sciences, state planning, civil society, and technology to produce extensive social and economic change. For proponents, it became a valuable weapon to check the influence of menacing ideologies such as Fascism and Communism.
Modernization took on profound geopolitical importance as the United States grappled with these threats. After World War II, modernization remained a means to contain the growing influence of the Soviet Union. Ekbladh demonstrates how U.S.-led nation-building efforts in global hot spots, enlisting an array of nongovernmental groups and international organizations, were a basic part of American strategy in the Cold War.
However, a close connection to the Vietnam War and the upheavals of the 1960s would discredit modernization. The end of the Cold War further obscured modernization's mission, but many of its assumptions regained prominence after September 11 as the United States moved to contain new threats. Using new sources and perspectives, The Great American Mission offers new and challenging interpretations of America's ideological motivations and humanitarian responsibilities abroad.
"In this important book, Ekbladh provides one of the most compelling portraits yet of the liberal ideas that guide U.S. foreign policy. . . . Even though the liberal vision of modernization lost appeal amid the trauma of the Vietnam War, as Ekbladh's fascinating account makes clear, it remains deeply embedded in the American imagination."--John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs
"[T]his is a book with a broad mandate. . . . It is a significant contribution to have such a compelling account of the overall strategic impetus of American development during, before, and after the Cold War."--Travis Nelson, Political Science Quarterly
"Ekbladh offers a sweeping, provocative appraisal of the U.S. attempt to employ development as an ideological weapon."--Choice
"[E]rudite and ambitious. . . . [A]n illuminating and compelling read."--David Milne, Journal of American Studies
"The Great American Mission deserves to take its place among the literature on the evolution of US foreign relations in the twentieth century."--Nicolas Bouchet, International Affairs
"David Ekbladh's excellent new book does valuable work in illustrating much of this complexity, and fleshing out its rich historical detail. He not only provides an impressive account of the evolution of American thinking about 'development' and 'modernisation', but also places this firmly in the context of both social and intellectual trends at work within the United States and the external demands being made of its foreign policy."--Adam Quinn, Journal of Transatlantic Studies
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations ix
List of Abbreviations xv
CHAPTER 1: The Rise of an American Style of Development, 1914-1937 14
CHAPTER 2: The Only Road for Mankind: "Modernisation" to Meet the Challenge of Totalitarianism, 1933-1944 40
CHAPTER 3: A Gospel of Liberalism: Point Four and Modernization as National Policy, 1943-1952 77
CHAPTER 4: "The Proving Ground": Modernization and U.S. Policy in Northeast Asia, 1945-1960 114
CHAPTER 5: "The Great American Mission": Modernization and the United States in the World, 1952-1960 153
CHAPTER 6: A TVA on the Mekong: Modernization at War in Southeast Asia, 1960-1973 190
CHAPTER 7: "Everything Is Going Wrong": The Crisis of Development and the End of the Postwar Consensus 226
CHAPTER 8: New Developments: From the Cold War to the "War on Terror" 257