Competing with Hollywood

LONDON: Just over one hundred years ago, one of the nineteenth century's greatest novelists said: "It was wonderful to find America, but it would have been more wonderful to miss it." So wrote Mark Twain - a man whose work is almost synonymous with America itself.

When Twain wrote those words it must have seemed possible to live life unaffected by America. Movies, jazz, advertising - all the modern American icons had yet to be born. Today, American culture feels all-pervasive. "Globalization" of our societies, development of the internet, the spread of liberal economics; all shrink boundaries to a point where it is impossible to avoid the American way of life, however devoutly some might wish to do so.

Given the seemingly ubiquitous nature of American culture, how should we respond? There seem to be two ingrained ways of contemplating the spread of American influence. The first sees American culture solely as a threat, with thousands of years of European history about to be swept away by a flood of crass images, cheap soundbites and mental junk food.

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