Two Faces of Globalization: Europeanization Vs Americanization
No. 1 2006 January/March
Vladislav Inozemtsev

PhD in Economics; he is Head of the Department of World Economy at the Faculty of Public Administration, Lomonosov Moscow State University, and Director of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies.

When exploring the nature of globalization, one should answer
some simple questions about its driving forces, major actors and
principal means. The result may be astonishing: globalization,
according to its current meaning, has never truly existed. Modern
history was shaped by Europeanization and Americanization – two
quite different, if not oppositional, trends. This fact explains
both the rise and decline of the existing world order.


As the number of books and articles concerning globalization
explodes, the very nature of this phenomenon becomes less and less
clear. For example, if globalization is perceived as nothing more
than the growing interdependence between all existing economic and
political developments, then its beginnings may be traced back to

Another interpretation of globalization is that it is an
unavoidable influence that any particular trend or event in any
part of the world necessarily has on any other trend or event. From
such an understanding it is obvious that even the contemporary
world is not fully globalized.
Finally, some believe that specific advances in economic and
political internationalization initiated globalization. Yet, there
are no objective criteria for choosing any particular historical
event as the starting point for globalization.

The underlying logic of globalization is similar to that of the
theory of post-industrial society. From the 1950s to the 1970s,
dozens of scholars tried to find a proper name for the new social
organization that was gradually replacing the established order of
modernity. The term ‘post-industrial’ became widely used for two
major reasons. First, it specified precisely what made this new
society so different from the old one. Second, while not defining
its basic principles as inconsistent with those of capitalism, the
post-industrial theory did not challenge any of the influential
sociological doctrines. The same was true of the term
‘globalization.’ This catchphrase implied that the world had
outgrown its previous fragmentation, yet it did not specify any of
its new features. Since there were no obstacles for applying it to
social phenomena of any kind, its universal use was all but

However, there is a difference between these two concepts.
Theorists of post-industrialism insisted that information was to
replace energy as the main productive resource and the new
knowledge elite was to become the dominant social stratum. In other
words, they argued that the responsibility for the fate of society
had shifted from one social class to another.

On the contrary, ideologists of globalization considered this
impersonal but omnipotent phenomenon as a major driving force
behind current socio-economic trends and denied anybody the
responsibility for the destinies of the world. It is no wonder that
this term was coined in 1979, in the midst of the greatest
geopolitical and geoeconomic uncertainty, and accepted so easily
and enthusiastically.

The debate over globalization started when it became obvious
that profound changes in one part of the world could have
consequences anywhere else on the planet. However, the painful
political and economic developments of the 1960s and the 1970s (the
breakup of European empires, the rise of East Asian economies, as
well as the oil shocks of 1974 and 1981, for example) were not a
result of the new political and economic agenda of peripheral
nations, but a natural consequence of, and a natural response to
Western economic and political interference in the affairs of the
outside world. Taking this into account, one may argue that
considering globalization as a “natural” process, in which there
are ostensibly no actors and subjects, no dominators and no
oppressed, means depriving the question, “Who is the actual maоtre
du mond?” of its essence.


The laws governing human societies are distinct from the laws of
nature. Every historical event appears not to be the predictable
effect of some single cause, but rather a result of personal and
collective efforts and actions. For example, while it is quite
possible to speak of a sudden collision between two asteroids or
some other celestial objects, the same term would not apply to the
encounter of one particular people with another. Dinesh D’Souza is
right when he argues that at the end of the 15th century the
Spaniards discovered a new continent – not merely encountered its
native peoples – since “it was Columbus and his ships that ventured
out and landed on the shores of the Americas, and not American
Indians who landed on the shores of Europe” [Dinesh D’Souza. What’s
So Great About America. Washington (DC): Regnery Publishing, 2002,
p. 39]. Meanwhile, the essence of the concept of ‘globalization’ is
substituting discovery by encounter, or conceiving purposeful
changes as “natural” developments.

The ideologues of globalization are forced to be inconsistent.
For if one considers the financial crises in the peripheral
countries, together with the growing wealth gap between “the West
and the rest,” as “globalization’s discontents,” then one must
include the terrorist strikes of 9/11 as a mere episode in a long
list of such discontents. And vice versa: if one accuses particular
states, powerful groups and even private individuals of committing
those terrorist attacks, then one must also admit that many other,
no less important, events represent something more than the
unavoidable results of natural circumstances. If our present
policymakers negatively label those responsible for the “dark side
of globalization,” they should not deny one’s responsibility for
its more positive effects as well.

Every social process has particular groups or nations behind it.
Our globalized world is not the result of development; rather, it
was created. As for the question who crafted it, the answer is
simple: it was the Europeans who used the advantages of l’йconomie
de la monde europиen for constructing l’йconomie-monde europиenne.
Drawing from their military and technological superiority, they
dispersed hundreds of thousands of their compatriots throughout the
world, applied their advanced industrial technologies to the newly
discovered lands, gave their names to innumerable islands and
straights, converted native people into the Christian faith and
taught them European languages, and finally extended their
political power over the entire planet.

While in the process of globalizing the world, the Europeans
were not concerned with ‘globalization.’ Yet our contemporaries,
who suddenly have become preoccupied with the phenomenon, have
somehow forgotten (or try to forget) about those historic
achievements. Nobody gives it much thought today why the colonies
mostly populated by the Europeans are labeled “Western (as opposed
to European) offshoots” (Angus Maddison. The World Economy: A
Millennial Perspective. Paris: OECD Publications Service, 2001, pp.
8, 12). Similarly, nobody questions why 20th century history –
heavily influenced by one of former colonies, the United States –
is now interpreted as the “world revolution of Westernization” (as
opposed to “Americanization”) (Theodore H. von Laue. The World
Revolution of Westernization: The Twentieth Century in Global
Perspective. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987, pp.
3-5). Nevertheless, this question should be asked – and answered,
as well. Otherwise, our inquiry into the nature and causes of the
emerging global disorder will remain incomplete.


The European expansion, which began in the 15th century, was the
greatest historic event of the past millennium. At that time Europe
was neither the most populous nor the most economically developed
part of the world; it was politically fragmented and divided by
religious conflicts. Nonetheless, it had three crucial advantages
over any potential adversary. First, the Europeans inherited the
legacy of the Romans – the only ancient civilization that had for
centuries secured its control over the vast territories despite the
Latins’ being a tiny minority. Second, since all the seas – from
the Baltic to the Aegean – were for the Europeans something like
the mare interna was for the Romans, Europe evolved as a maritime,
not as a mainland, civilization. Finally, the powerful European
monarchs allowed a degree of personal autonomy that was unknown to
Asian monarchies.

It took the Europeans less than 400 years to achieve worldwide
dominance. Among the 149 current non-European UN members, 125
experienced – at least once in their history – direct European
rule. By the end of the 19th century, this Europeanized world had
acquired at least four specific features.

First, European dominance was established through the massive
outward migration of the European people. From the mid-19th century
till the eve of World War II, more than 60 million people had left
their homelands; this process was so common that the British
government considered the emigration to the colonies nothing but “a
redistribution of population within the nation” (cited from: Jan
Morris. Pax Britannica, Vol. II: The Climax of the Empire. London:
Faber & Faber, 1998, p. 69). What the Europeans brought to the
colonies was not a set of abstract values and principles, but a way
of life that began to change the attitudes and habits of the local
people. While steadily fortifying their overseas possessions, the
Europeans were convinced that they were accomplishing la mission
civilisatrice, and in most cases the native population benefited
from the European presence.

Second, the sound European economy permitted the Europeans to
build a commercial network that united the large metropolises with
the colonies. The role of the colonial territories, however, was
not reduced to the position of those robbed and overexploited; on
the contrary, they became the main destination for European
overseas investment. In 1911, for example, capital outflow from
metropolitan Britain reached an unbelievable 8.7 percent of the
GDP; during the time of their rule in India, the British extended
the total irrigation area by a factor of eight and built more
railways than in their native England. On the eve of World War I,
the export to GDP ratio was approaching 12-15 percent in all major
European countries, while 80 percent of global commodity exports
originated from Europe.

Third, the Europeans were committed to establishing close
cultural ties with the local people, which involved well-organized
studies of their beliefs and traditions. They elevated Orientalism,
for example, to special departments of social science, oriental
legends and myths. They deciphered dead languages of ancient
civilizations and excavated and preserved the most valuable
artifacts of the past. Remarkably, more than a million colonial
servicemen joined the British and French armies on the European
battlegrounds of World War I. And when Jawaharlal Nehru, the first
Prime Minister of independent India, told American journalists he
was proud to feel himself the last Englishman who ruled over India,
he definitely had something to be proud of.

Fourth, the Europeans relied on a permanent military presence in
their colonies and established a sophisticated administrative
system there. The use of force was limited but effective (at the
beginning of the 20th century the entire British Empire was guarded
by less than 250,000 servicemen; occasional revolts were not
followed by ‘wars on terror’ but were put down by routine
expeditions “which the British never called wars, but only
‘emergencies’” (Michael Howard. What’s in a Name? In: Foreign
Affairs, 2002, Vol. 81, No. 1, p. 8). It may be history now, but we
should remember that all colonial wars caused less casualties among
the native populations than the reported ethnic cleansing, civil
wars and military conflicts which these countries suffered during
the first 40 years of their independence from the European

Thus, the Europeanization of the world was characterized by a
clear purpose (the establishment of a stable system for governing
huge peripheral regions from the center), coherent methods (a
long-term economic and political engagement with the periphery),
and adequate means (huge outflows of people and capital).
Importantly, the Europeans never aimed at redesigning the entire
world into something similar to Europe writ large; they felt
comfortable in seeing the distinction between the center and the
periphery, since it proved the uniqueness of both the European
social structures and cultural heritage. As a result of
Europeanization, all kinds of dangers and challenges that might
arise from the periphery to disturb – not to say, threaten –
Western civilization, were eliminated completely by the end of the
19th century.

The end of European empires heralded the triumph of European
values. Within twenty years after World War II, these empires were
dismantled, but not primarily due to the lack of force to control
huge imperial possessions, but because of the dramatic decrease in
their economic value. Today, trade between European nations and
their former colonies comprises less than 5 percent of total
European trade; investments into these territories account for no
more than 2 percent of European overseas assets. Much more
remarkable, however, is the fact that the Europeans have not lost
their identity with the disintegration of their empires; they have
strengthened it through the establishment of supranational, yet
truly European, structures and institutions. The old aspiration for
governing the globe has been reborn in the form of a new Europe,
which may once again become a model to be copied by the rest of the


The United States emerged as the world’s only superpower
immediately after the end of World War II. The Soviet challenge to
the U.S. dominance, which eventually led to the Cold War and split
the world, had political and ideological reasons, while the rise of
the U.S. power originated from unique economic dynamics. After four
decades of this continuous showdown, the American economy-based
ideology defeated the Soviet ideology-based economy. The result was
predictable from the outset: the story of Americanization actually
began in 1945, not in 1989, as one may assume.

As the new leader of the Western world, the United States was
completely different from the British Empire, as well as from the
continental powers of Europe. In contrast to 16th-century Europe,
20th-century America was politically unified and economically
solid. The U.S. was also different from Europe in that it was a
country of immigrants as opposed to a continent plagued by massive
emigration. Moreover, the U.S. enjoyed an unprecedented military
superiority over the rest of the world and had no significant
colonial experience. It consistently avoided any overseas
engagement. Finally, the American nation was united, not so much by
its common past and collective experience, but by its projected
future and shared values. If such a country was somehow brought to
the top of the world, then the only possible explanation could be
found in the direct involvement of divine providence.

All of these national peculiarities resulted in two aspects of a
distinctive American worldview. First, since the U.S. considers
itself to be the indispensable nation, its “calling as a blessed
country,” as proclaimed by President George W. Bush, “is to make
the world better” (State of the Union Address, January 28, 2003).
Second, since the U.S. has approached global dominance due to its
economic success, Americans tend to rely on economic force, while
using all the advantages of its economic superiority.

Therefore, economy-based ideology was chosen as the main
instrument for adapting the world to the U.S. standards. Since
materialistic motivation is believed to be universal, and the U.S.
delivered a standard-setting model of economic success, it was
considered that its principles should be applied anywhere in the
world, thus producing American-style liberties and democracy, as
well as an American way of living. But whereas the Europeans sought
to establish political control over new territories for
Europeanizing them to some degree, not for reproducing the entire
European model, the ultimate goal of the Americans was to import
their economic model into a new environment in order to Americanize
the world as profoundly as possible. Moreover, while the Europeans
themselves promoted Europeanization, Americanization does not seem
to require the Americans, since its goal is to spread universal
ideas and values, not particularly those of the American


The first steps of Americanization were extremely successful.
The 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s saw the longest and most
sustainable economic expansion in history, as the U.S. economy
flourished during this age of mass production, mass consumption and
mass media.

But while the market economy boosts productivity, it does this
through competition; while it increases wealth, it fails to
distribute it equally. Simply delivering strong overall economic
performance does not mean inventing the right tool for promoting
equality and reducing social tensions. American multinationals
easily gained control over the economy of newly independent
nations, benefiting from both the weakness of their institutional
structures and the unique role of the dollar. While only showing an
interest in the profits of their shareholders, they had no interest
in securing political and social stability beyond the borders of
their homelands. As a result, within just four decades the wealth
gap between the richest and poorest of the world’s population
leaped from 7 to 75 times. Failed states became as common as
wealthy financial centers. All these processes caused a natural
strong reaction – directed primarily against the U.S. The
Europeanized world of subordinated freedom was gradually replaced
by an Americanized world of unlimited irresponsibility, and raised
the problem of restoring the order to the top of the international
In this new global environment the differences between
Europeanization and Americanization became evident.

First, Americanization was not exercised through massive
American emigration to the peripheral territories; instead, the
U.S. itself turned into the land of immigrants coming from every
corner of the globe. Responding to their claims, American culture
underwent a dramatic transformation, and went from proudly
promoting civic virtues to merely practicing political correctness.
As a result, the American way of living, which was supposed to
attract people around the globe, actually began to disappear in the
United States; in the past, European values were adopted in many
parts of the world – not least because the local people witnessed
the Europeans’ way of living (sympathy toward the Europeans
eventually transformed into an admiration of Europe, and vice
versa). Very few people around the globe will now say openly that
they dislike Americans, but this cannot stop the rising wave of
anti-Americanism. This is the “just” price for Americanization
without Americans – not dissimilar from the American style of
waging war while avoiding any direct engagement with the enemy.
Such a process of Americanization can hardly be sustainable or long

Second, despite the high growth rates of the U.S. domestic
economy, its current geo-economic positioning does not compare to
that of Europe at the end of the 19th century. America is now the
world’s largest debtor nation, and is challenged in this position
only by Japan. The U.S. international investment position is in
deep red, approaching $3.75 trillion and showing no signs of
improvement. The United States accounts for only 14.7 percent of
global exports, while its trade deficit is now the largest ever
recorded – $556 billion, or 5.2 percent of its GDP. Government
spending in the U.S. is low, but the federal budget deficit
continues to balloon: the deficit for fiscal year 2004 stood at a
record high of $521 billion, or 4.9 percent of the GDP. To balance
the current investment deficit, the U.S. needs a net capital inflow
of $1.6 to $2.3 billion per day. Even its record military spending,
matching that of the rest of the world, cannot offset this internal
economic weakness.

Third, the Americans have become accustomed to an
over-simplistic vision of the world, dividing it into light and
dark parts, into centers of good and evil. Paradoxically, while
respecting personal freedoms and human rights in their own country,
including that of foreigners who arrive in the U.S. to realize
their life plans, Americans continue to deny the right of other
peoples to be culturally and ideologically different. Our world is
now very diverse, and it will become even more so in the future. So
the nation that “has been committed to its exceptionalist myths in
its policies and practices” is hardly able to “make the world
better.” (Benjamin Barber. Fear’s Empire: War, Terrorism, and
Democracy. New York, London: W.W. Norton&Co., 2003, p. 49).
Democracy cannot be imposed everywhere. America’s recent efforts to
impose democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq were doomed to failure,
since what needs to be promoted is not formal democracy, but civil
order based on a culture of tolerance. The United States, however,
has no serious intention to gain overseas possessions for promoting
a culture of tolerance there. And unless such culture is nurtured,
any attempt to build democracy will fail.

Fourth, today the U.S is not ready for this particular mission.
The American public is not committed to any sort of expansionist
strategy since it consists of consumers who value their domestic
economic wellbeing far more than any empire-building ambitions. The
American political establishment will never initiate anything like
Europe’s past colonial adventures because it will not consider it
necessary to risk the lives of their compatriots to establish
values and principles which they deem universal, and, as such, will
presumably – sooner or later – be adopted by every nation, people,
or tribe.    

Thus, the global Americanization project lacks a clear aim;
rather, it is substituted by the promotion of the U.S. economic
model, or by a response to any danger that may threaten its vital
interests. Americanization has no coherent methods (sporadic acts
of American interference which may happen anywhere in the world can
hardly count as such) or adequate means (in economic terms, the new
imperial power is now extremely vulnerable and highly dependent on
the rest of the world). In contrast to the Europeans, the Americans
believe in some universal values and principles. Thus, they want
the world not only to become similar to America, but an actual
reproduction of it. Americans will feel comfortable only if the
transformation of the diverse world into une planиte uniforme is
accomplished, because only such an outcome can guarantee a
sustainable and secure future for the United States.

The principal defect of Americanization is that it will cause a
global counter-reaction, for which the Americans are not ready.
Furthermore, the failure of the Americanization project will affect
the doctrine of American exceptionalism, which, being damaged, may
bring down the entire American ideology.


The prospects for the Americanization global project should now
become the central matter of concern for all of Western
civilization. Today, there are some experts – even those who
criticize the current administration – who believe the United
States will remain the global leader not because it is different
but because it is so much like the rest of the world. This may be
true, but if so, it should become a matter of concern rather than a
cause for consolation.

It is much easier to govern a single state than to rule the
entire world. Therefore, the crisis of governance is now better
seen on the global level. But if the U.S. is really so much like
the wider world, then what the emerging global disorder is
prophesying is the imminent disorder inside the United States. The
European powers survived the dismantling of their empires without
tremendous difficulties because they understood that the peoples
they wished to civilize might be unprepared to adopt the European
way of living. The United States will hardly survive a setback of
that kind. The failure to impose universal values will mean that
those values are in fact not universal, and, if so, America has
been deceiving itself for centuries.

Throughout the entire epoch of Europeanization, the frontier
that separated Europe from all other territories remained precise
and clear; this precision and clarity saved the European identity
after the collapse of its Europeanization efforts. Today, in the
age of Americanization, there is no visible border between America
and the rest of the world; therefore, if attempts to Americanize
the globe fail, America’s identity could be ruined.

The contemporary world is entering a time of turbulence. To
survive it, not to mention benefit from it, those responsible for
global stability should rethink the very foundations of their
doctrines. They must come to the conclusion that no country can,
nor will, rule the world. At the same time, however, they must
recognize that it is possible to lead the world, educate it and
even govern it in an indirect manner. But in order to do so, they
should reject the very idea of universal principles and values and
determine genuine globalization as the process of establishing a
global system which should include all kinds of nation-states,
communities of faith, supranational institutions, or peoples bound
by their collective memories. If successful, this will prove that
at the dawn of the new millennium the globalizing world is
dominated by a superpower, which in fact does not share the
doctrine of globalization. 


The postmodern world did not replace the world of modernity. It
only added a new dimension to the old order, and this dimension is
multiplicity. We all are entering a new era in which the Europeans
may peacefully live in their united Europe, and the Americans may
build their beloved America according to their own projects. But
this will be possible only if America and Europe let the rest of
the world follow the path of genuine globalization, that is, let
each nation and people follow its own course.