Summary Edit

Elkbadh’s book looks at the place of development ideas (one set – modernization) in American foreign relations during the twentieth century. Modernization was defined in the Depression as liberals sought proof that they could master the forces of modernity. Compelling models emerging from the New Deal (Tennessee Valley Authority as THE model) were bound for worldwide use and were often embedded in the social and political forces of the time period (1930s and the dual menace of fascism and communism). The TVA was an expression of American mastery of applied technology within a liberal political framework.  These approaches, newly labeled "modernization," became a consensus view internationally and were spread by states as well as institutions, private groups, and NGOs and applied in Korea and other parts of Asia and during World War II. At home modernization became an American mission that appealed to constituencies across society and influenced social science approaches to race and poverty in the United States. It also became a strategic and central role in U.S.-led "nation building" programs in critical parts of the "Third World" during the Cold War. In the 1960s and 1970s, modernization was brought to crisis by its intimate connection to the war in Vietnam, growing criticism of the Western modernity that was assumed to be its goal, and an environmental critique that highlighted ecological and human costs. This discredited modernization in many quarters, causing a “crisis in development” and a movement away from the state as the primary agent that promoted development. Nevertheless, modernization's influence continues to echo in institutions and approaches that remain in the skeletal structure of the international community today.

Example: Johnson and the "Mekong TVA" in Vietnam

See also: Andrew Zimmerman, Daniel Immerwahr