Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Inderjeet Parmar reveals the complex interrelations, shared mindsets, and collaborative efforts of influential public and private organizations in the building of American hegemony. Focusing on the involvement of the Ford, Rockefeller, and Carnegie foundations in U.S. foreign affairs, Parmar traces the transformation of America from an "isolationist" nation into the world's only superpower, all in the name of benevolent stewardship.
Parmar begins in the 1920s with the establishment of these foundations and their system of top-down, elitist, scientific giving, which focused more on managing social, political, and economic change than on solving modern society's structural problems. Consulting rare documents and other archival materials, he recounts how the American intellectuals, academics, and policy makers affiliated with these organizations institutionalized such elitism, which then bled into the machinery of U.S. foreign policy and became regarded as the essence of modernity.
America hoped to replace Britain in the role of global hegemon and created the necessary political, ideological, military, and institutional capacity to do so, yet far from being objective, the Ford, Rockefeller, and Carnegie foundations often advanced U.S. interests at the expense of other nations. Incorporating case studies of American philanthropy in Nigeria, Chile, and Indonesia, Parmar boldly exposes the knowledge networks underwriting American dominance in the twentieth century.
With Foundations of the American Century, Inderjeet Parmar has produced the most wide-ranging and sophisticated historical account of the international role of American philanthropic foundations to date. Parmar reopens the debate about the cultural instruments of American foreign policy by emphasizing, beyond the success or failure of their programs and beyond their political oscillations, the importance of the international networks that foundations have established over the past century. Building on impressive amounts of archival material that spans an entire century of philanthropic activity on several continents, and tracing the aftereffects of this history in the post--Cold War era and the early twenty-first century, Parmar's book is bound to become a landmark in foundation literature. It will be of interest to cultural historians, international relations scholars, political scientists, and anyone interested in the nature of American power and liberal internationalism.
(Nicolas Guilhot, author of The Democracy Makers: Human Rights and the Politics of Global Order )