- Americanization of the European Economy: A Compact Survey of American Economic Influence in Europe since the 1880s
This volume is a rather ambitious and, in my opinion, successful attempt to synthesize a topic of great debate in recent years. Schröter differentiates his work from the earlier literature in two aspects. While earlier works have tended to examine primarily the postwar years, Schröter chooses to deal with a much longer period (that is, from the final decades of the nineteenth century up to present day). Second, Schröter chooses not to limit his examination only to business or economic issues but also—and especially—to further extend his analysis and deal with how they are interwoven with cultural and social aspects. In this respect, he follows Douglas North's theory on institutional change and economic growth. For the Nobel Laureate, the distinction between organizations and institutions is crucial. While organizations are the relevant actors, institutions give the formal and informal rules of the game according to which a society is structured and governed.
Schröter defines Americanization as "an adapted transfer of values, behavior, institutions, technologies, patterns of organization, symbols and norms from the USA to the economic life of the other states" (p. 4). He distinguishes Americanization from modernization, seeing the latter as the more general affirmation of Westernization (both American and European). The author clearly states that Americanization cannot simply be considered an import from the United States but needs to be seen as a local adaptation to an American-originated influence. In this respect, Schröter assumes the view of those who have emphasized the limits of the phenomenon.
The book is structured so that Schröter examines the most important issues of the day in each epoch considered. In Part I (1870–1945) the key topic examined is the European arrival of principles of scientific management theory. In the next part (1945–1975), Schröter gives [End Page 201] attention to Americanization as a mission and the invasion in Europe of new technologies that brought about mass production and distribution. Most important in this phase was the new management of the firm and its approach to the market. In the final part Schröter examines the period from the 1980s to the present, when Americanization signified, especially, deregulation, privatization, the triumph of finance, and new information and communication technologies.
In the end, Schröter identifies three waves of Americanization. The first reached its peak in the 1920s, with the rationalization movement of that era that subsequently collapsed during the crisis of the 1930s. This was followed by the second that manifested itself especially with the implementation of the European Recovery Program (the Marshall Plan) in the 1950s. The final wave, in the second half of the 1980s, was both a political and economic movement of the Reagan era, as well as an amazing wave of new technologies.
Schröter argues that Americanization (in this respect, drastically different from Sovietization) basically occurs with the consensus of the "Americanized" Europeans who willingly adopted it. The author excludes any kind of a grand design or a comprehensive master plan worked out by the U.S. government or by national enterprises, foundations, or other American institutions to transfer American values abroad. On this point, I partially disagree. While this argument can be made when considering the first and the third phases (as the third is the widest and deepest of the three), it is impossible to avoid noting a clear political design that was present in the second phase, animated by the fear of communism and the memory of the terrible crisis of the 1930s.
Schröter singles out five basic values as the seedbed for Americanization. They are (1) the strong and positive role attached to the economy; the virtues of (2) competition and of (3) individualism; (4) a tendency toward the commercialization of human relations; and (5) the trend for social bonds based on achievement and choice...