Capital of the American Century

Capital of the American Century: The National and International Influence of New York City

EDITED BY Martin Shefter
Copyright Date: 1993
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 256
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    Capital of the American Century
    Book Description:

    Capital of the American Centuryinvestigates the remarkable influence that New York City has exercised over the economy, politics, and culture of the nation throughout much of the twentieth century. New York's power base of corporations, banks, law firms, labor unions, artists and intellectuals has played a critical role in shaping areas as varied as American popular culture, the nation's political doctrines, and the international capitalist economy. If the city has lost its unique prominence in recent decades, the decline has been largely-and ironically-a result of the successful dispersion of its cosmopolitan values.

    The original essays inCapital of the American Centuryoffer objective and intriguing analyses of New York City as a source of innovation in many domains of American life. Postwar liberalism and modernism were advanced by a Jewish and WASP coalition centered in New York's charitable foundations, communications media, and political organizations, while Wall Street lawyers and bankers played a central role in fashioning national security policies. New York's preeminence as a cultural capital was embodied in literary and social criticism by the "New York intellectuals," in the fine arts by the school of Abstract Expressionism, and in popular culture by Broadway musicals. American business was dominated by New York, where the nation's major banks and financial markets and its largest corporations were headquartered.

    In exploring New York's influence, the contributors also assess the larger social and economic conditions that made it possible for a single city to exert such power. New York's decline in recent decades stems not only from its own fiscal crisis, but also from the increased diffusion of industrial, cultural, and political hubs throughout the nation. Yet the city has taken on vital new roles that, on the eve of the twenty-first century, reflect an increasingly global era: it is the center of U.S. foreign trade and the international art market:The New York TimesandThe Wall Street Journalhave emerged as international newspapers; and the city retains a crucial influence in information-intensive sectors such as corporate law, accounting, management consulting, and advertising.

    Capital of the American Centuryprovides a fresh link between the study of cities and the analysis of national and international affairs. It is a book that enriches our historical sense of contemporary urban issues and our understanding of modern culture, economy, and politics.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-497-2
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. 1 New York’s National and International Influence
    (pp. 1-26)
    Martin Shefter

    If, as Walter Benjamin said, the capital of the nineteenth century was Paris, then the capital of the American Century surely was New York.¹ During the decades following World War II, when American power was at its peak, elites and institutions based in New York exercised enormous political, economic, and cultural influence both at home and abroad. Wall Street lawyers and bankers played a central role in fashioning the policies of containment, collective security, and liberal internationalism that the United States pursued in the international arena. Corporations headquartered in the metropolis brought American products, and extended American business methods, throughout...

  5. 2 New York City and the International System: International Strategy and Urban Fortunes
    (pp. 27-48)
    Miles Kahler

    In 1945, New York was the largest city in the most powerful country in the world and its predominant standing nationally seemed to be reinforced by the international position of the United States. Forty-five years later, New York remains the largest American city, but central cities are less significant within their metropolitan regions and national politics, and one rapidly growing Sunbelt rival, Los Angeles, seems poised to challenge New York’s economic and cultural preeminence. The American economy remains by far the largest in the world, but its edge over other industrialized states has declined, and perhaps more important, it has...

  6. 3 New York City as a National and Global Financial Center
    (pp. 49-70)
    David Vogel

    This chapter explores the impact of changes in the domestic and international economy on New York City’s standing as a global financial center. It specifically focuses on three interrelated developments.

    First, we are currently in the midst of a historic shift in the global center of economic gravity from the Atlantic to the Pacific basins. In the early 1980s, for the first time in American history, the trade of the United States with Asia surpassed its trade with Western Europe. If the current differential between the growth rates of the economies bordering each of these oceans persists, within a generation...

  7. 4 Between Europe and America: The New York Foreign Policy Elite
    (pp. 71-94)
    James R. Kurth

    In recent years, there has been much discussion about two great trajectories arcing across the twentieth century: the rise and decline of the dominance of America in the world,¹ and of New York in America. New York’s foreign-policy elite provides the link between these two trajectories. It is this elite which almost fifty years ago brought forth men such as Averell Harriman, Robert Lovett, Dean Acheson, John McCloy, and George Kennan, who were “present at the creation” of the liberal international order under American leadership and were the founding fathers of lithe American Century.” And it is this New York...

  8. 5 New York City and American National Politics
    (pp. 95-116)
    Martin Shefter

    New York has been America’s financial capital since the 1830s and its premier cultural center since the 1890s. In contrast to London, Paris, and Tokyo, however, it is not a political capital. Consequently, economic and cultural elites in New York do not have the same opportunities for daily interaction with national govemmental leaders as do their counterparts in other world cities. Nonetheless, New York–based interests have not been without means of exercising influence in the national political arena.

    There have been three major phases in New York’s national influence. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries political parties were...

  9. 6 Take Me Away from Manhattan: New York City and American Mass Culture, 1930–1990
    (pp. 117-144)
    James L. Baughman

    In 1930, young Americans determined to succeed in the popular arts—songwriting, theater, or journalism—considered New York City their ultimate destination. The would-be film star or director had to go to California, the site of most motion picture production. But the ambitious journalist, playwright, or songwriter looked to New York.

    During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, America, unlike England and France, lacked a cultural capital. To Lord Bryce, writing in the late 1880s, no one American city had the “conjunction of the forces of rank, wealth, knowledge, [and] intellect.” In Washington, the nation’s political center, Bryce observed, “there are...

  10. 7 New York Culture: Ascendant or Subsident?
    (pp. 145-166)
    Vera L. Zolberg

    Long preeminent as the site of corporate headquarters, banking, certain kinds of manufacture, and as a cultural center, New York City benefited from the dominant international position of the United States after World War II to become the art center of the world. In recent years, however, the emergence of new economic rivals has challenged the standing both of America in the world and of New York within the United States. In the face of this challenge, is it possible for the city to maintain its cultural importance?

    This chapter analyzes New York City’s influence on high culture in America...

  11. 8 The National Influence of Jewish New York
    (pp. 167-192)
    Nathan Glazer

    New York stands apart from the other great capitals—London, Paris, Tokyo, and add as many more as you wish—in that its population diverges sharply from the nation of which it is the largest and chief city. If New York is seen by the hinterland as something of a “comprador” city, perched on the country’s eastern perimeter and diverging from it in culture, politics, and economics, this is not simply because New York is a cosmopolitan city that arouses the suspicion of provincials and a financial center that is viewed warily by those who grow or process material things....

  12. 9 On Metropolitan Dominance: New York in the Urban Network
    (pp. 193-218)
    Paul DiMaggio

    The chapters in this volume collectively depict a New York that remains at the peak of the U.S. urban system, and whose claim to the status of “global city” is secure. Yet they also make it clear that, at least in some domains, New York, if not quite in decline, is not as dominant as it was at mid-century.

    For example, New York’s dominant position in finance appears relatively secure, and is perhaps reinforced by the rise of new communications technologies and by the internationalization of capital markets. In manufacturing, however, New York has lost ground and fallen behind much...

  13. Name Index
    (pp. 219-226)
  14. Subject Index
    (pp. 227-244)