Americanization - The US strikes back?

Term Paper 2002 22 Pages

English - Applied Geography


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Defining Americanization

3. Chronology

4. Language

5. Popular culture

6. Conclusion

7. Bibliography

8. Appendix I

9. Appendix II

1. Introduction

The American influence is a part of Globalization which everyone can see in the media, taste in the food, and sense in the products we buy. Hence, it is perceivable for everyone, every day. Satellites, the internet, airplanes, and container ships are carrying the American culture to Europe all around the clock.

In fact, the English language, or better said, American English and its variations are dominating the stage in all fields of intercultural exchange such as business, sciences, and entertainment. Just 100 years ago, German scientists dominated worldwide research, and thus most publications were in German. Nowadays most publications are in English, due to the concentration of the best researchers at American universities and the function of English as the “common denominator”. In times of the rule of “publish or perish” one is forced to adopt English in order to obtain international recognition. But the impact is far deeper. It goes back to our cultural identity itself. When you switch on the television, when you go to the cinema, or when you open a magazines you will recognize this American influence such as in the case of Anglicisms like “Star“, “Opponent” and “Internet Kids”.

The term Americanization covers many different ideas and means different things to different people. Obviously, a member of the indigenous people who had settled in America prior to its „discovery“ has a wholly different understanding of it as a European or an immigrant. The meaning has also changed over time. In the beginning, the word was used to describe the movement to integrate immigrants in order to create a national identity[1]. During the Cold War it was often used in the context of the confrontation between the forces of democracy and international communism. Thus, Americanization was a symbol in the communist propaganda of the “enemy’s attempt” to undermine the victory of international communism. Nowadays (especially since September 11th), it is seen in a more religious context, as the clash of an economically strong western culture with the rest of the world[2]. In the following sections, I will concentrate my examination on particular fields of culture, where the American influence is typically observable. Let us firstly define “Americanization” in order to get an understanding of the different meanings.

2. Defining Americanization

The word Americanization was first introduced by English journalist William T. Stead around 1902[3]. Stead used the word to describe the creation of a unified „nation“ out of the different nationalities and social origins of the first settlers and their followers on the soil of today’s United States. Furthermore, he already supposed that this dynamic homogenization would ultimately cover the whole world. The distinction between these two different stages was pretty important.

Firstly, there is Americanization out of the view of an immigrant, who has to adopt and adapt to a new nation and hence a different culture. It is possible to become an American citizen not simply by the act of birth, but also by a conscious choice to accept new identity. As immigration is an expression of free will, the altered state is the outcome of a more or less voluntary action.

Secondly, there is the Americanization of other cultures which takes place outside of the US and is accompanied by the spread of „laissez-faire“ capitalism and liberal democratic values. In this line, the compound of typical American beliefs, values, and habits is projected abroad through the vast interconnections between the countries, therefore changing the character of a nation’s culture and identity. This second form, the outward domain, will be the focus of this essay.

3. Chronology

The first impacts of American culture can be traced back to the twenties. Due to a more liberal sentiment and less rigid social structures in the US, a couple of reforms could be implemented far earlier than in Europe, such as legalization of divorce, a result of the emancipation movement[4]. When European women asked for the same rights as their American counterparts, this act was propagated as the negative American influence. In the end, it was nothing more than a step towards the overdue modernization of society in order to adapt to city life and a technologically-defined environment. Furthermore, popular culture started its rise with the invention of the gramophone and hence recorded music.


[1] The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001, www.bartleby.com – “Americanization”.

[2] see Huntington, Samuel P., (1996), „The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” New York, NY : Simon & Schuster.

[3] Stead, William T., (1902), „The Americanization of the world“.

[4] Von Saldern, Adelheid, (1996) “Überfremdungsängste. Gegen die Amerikanissierung der deutschen Kultur in den zwanziger Jahren“ in Lüdtke, Alf, Marßolek, Inge and von Saldern, Adelheid (ed); “Amerikanisierung – Traum und Alptraum im Deutschland des 20. Jahrhunderts,“ Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag. pp. 213.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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University of Bayreuth – Language Center
1,3 (A)
Englisch english applied goegraphy globalization globalisation Landeskunde Amerikanisierung Globalisierung Americanization Americanisation




Title: Americanization - The US strikes back?