Twelve stepping stones to clarity

America Since 1945
February 24, 2006

The authors examine what they term the "American moment" - the period since 1945 when, "for good or ill, the United States became the predominant political, military, economic and cultural power in the world".

They undertake what they describe as an "interdisciplinary and dialogic"

approach to their subject. Political scientist Harry Papasotiriou writes six chapters on international relations and domestic politics, and literary historian Paul Levine writes alternate chapters on culture and society.

Together, the chapters form couplets in six parts that each cover one decade in the six decades from the 1940s to the 1990s, plus recent and contemporary events.

Although ostensibly structured chronologically, in fact only Papasotiriou's chapters form a strict linear narrative. They offer a straightforward and succinct account of familiar events. Levine's chapters are vaguely grounded in the same era as Papasotiriou's, but they take a more thematic, more thesis-driven and often more polemical track. They examine a wide range of ideas that includes, for example, "conformity and alienation" in the 1950s up to "globalisation" in the present.

America Since 1945 throws down the gauntlet to students and teachers alike to consider the US since 1945 in its broadest possible dimensions, asserting that it is best understood firmly within an American studies context. The wide range of materials discussed and the different approaches, narrative conventions and even, in places, the differing opinions and interpretations of the two authors, certainly make for a more ambitious challenge as a textbook than many post-1945 surveys.

Students of any subject that contains a component of post-1945 US content will find this book useful in situating their own interests within the broader context of the "American moment", and general readers curious about the world's last remaining superpower will find it a provocative and stimulating introduction.

John A. Kirk is professor of US history, Royal Holloway, University of London.

America Since 1945: The American Moment. First Edition

Author - Paul Levine and Harry Papasotiriou
Publisher - Palgrave Macmillan
Pages - 292
Price - £49.50 and £16.99
ISBN - 1 4039 4831 3 and 4832 1

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