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The term ”Americanization,” which broadly deals with American influence on something, has multiple specific meanings. Within the USA, Americanization has been most prominently understood in relation to immigrant acculturation, or immigrants’ adoption of US cultural norms and values. This Americanization concept was at its most popular in the early twentieth century. A large influx of immigrants had arrived to the USA between the 1870s and the 1920s, and the rapid growth of the foreign-born population caused concern that these newcomers would maintain their heritage culture rather than adopting US ways. World War I increased nationalist fervor and thus led to a heightened sense of nativism; immigrant cultures and languages were seen as not only deficient but also threatening, and ”Americanization” of immigrants was therefore understood as imperative. However, this Americanization sentiment lessened following the 1924 immigration restrictions. It further decreased in popularity with the post-World War II-era’s codification of human rights and with the increasing permissibility of cultural distinction following the civil rights era. Today, speaking of ”Americanizing” immigrants is often seen as unacceptable and culturally biased.
Outside of the USA, Americanization has been most commonly used to signify the spreading of US cultural, political, and economic norms and practices to other nations. This understanding of Americanization is thus related to globalization and westernization. Though exact contents and processes of this ”Americanization” are broad and oft-debated, US political influences have included the spreading of democracy, particularly during the cold war era; economic influences have included deregulation and free market principles; and cultural influences have included concepts of individualism and specific US cultural products, such as music, television, and film. While US practices and culture have sometimes been adopted voluntarily by other nations, Americanization has also been seen as hegemonic and forcibly imposed due to the USA’s economic and political power. Americanization has thus been seen, at varying times and by varying actors, as both a positive and negative phenomenon.
- Ritzer, G. & Ryan, M. (2004) Americanisation, McDonaldisation, and Globalisation. In: Campbell, N., Davies, J., & McKay, G. (eds.), Issues in Americanization and Culture. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 41-60.