16 Unexpected Ways America’s Cultural Dominance Shapes the World

America has had such an exponential impact on global culture that there’s even a name for it: Americanization. This term refers to the adoption of ‘Americanisms,’ including the English language and a US-centric cultural, technological, and media perspective.

From art and music to food and humanitarianism, here’s a look at some of the ways the US has shaped global culture.

Americanization

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A global phenomenon, the US sets the gold standard for global culture, with a universally felt impact across the world and beyond. Americanization and globalization seem to go hand in hand, given the significant influence the US has embedded into cultures worldwide.

Soft Power

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America’s sustained cultural influence is largely thanks to the successful use of soft power. This approach relies on the use of cultural and political values in foreign policy to establish relationships and influence through avenues such as film, art, business, and sport. The US excels at exerting its dominance through soft power and cultural diplomacy, seemingly perfecting its strategy during the Cold War era.

Land of Liberty

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As the land of the free, America has a sprawling influence on the development of democracy and the protection of human rights worldwide. During the Cold War period, efforts to influence the ‘buffer zone’ against the Soviet Union contributed to the development of democracy, thanks to initiatives like the Truman Doctrine (1947), which provided political, military, and economic assistance to support all democratic nations, helping to export US ideals and the ‘American Dream’.

Military Mania

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The lasting legacy of Americanization worldwide is partly thanks to its modern military influence. The US Army has helped shape global culture through its widespread presence and impact on media representation, technological advancements, language influence, cultural exchange, sports, entertainment, and deployment of humanitarian efforts.

Music 

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American popular music conquered the world by the 20th century and continues to dominate the industry. From modern-day legends like Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Taylor Swift, and Drake to classic icons like Nina Simone, Paul Anka, Eddie Van Halen, and Frank Sinatra, America continues to lead in musical innovation, production, and talent. As the birthplace of Jazz, Blues, Hip Hop, and Heavy Metal, the US is the creative hub for the global music industry.

The Fast Food Phenomenon

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Finger lickin’ good! The US has graced the world with fast-food fads and staple restaurants that have transformed the convenience of dining culture worldwide. From McDonalds to Starbucks, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of these culinary and cultural phenomena.

Space Exploration

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America’s influence isn’t just international; it’s extraterrestrial. Thanks to innovative advancements in space exploration, the US truly captured the world’s imagination during the space race with the Soviet Union, culminating in the Apollo space mission successfully placing the first man on the moon in 1969.

US space exploration has fostered a shared interest in scientific exploration beyond Earth. In 1998, the International Space Station was established, which continues to inspire the imaginations of millions, including UFO hunters and those in search of the extraterrestrial.

Social Media Empire

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The US has been the birthplace of social media titans, with platforms like Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), and Instagram dominating the industry. Social media has become a mainstay of global culture and a hub of information, significantly shaping new trends, opinions, news, and social interactions.

Media Domination

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Thanks to Hollywood, social media, and a vast array of US media outlets, America maintains an impressive and pervasive stronghold on global pop culture, shaping trends, news, and entertainment worldwide.

Consumer Brands

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The US has an impressive monopoly over global brands, from Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Nike to Amazon; these corporations continue to reach every corner of the world, simultaneously impacting shopping habits and popular culture.

Franchise Fanatics

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Popular US brands have established global dominance through successful franchising, saturating almost every sector worldwide. Icons like Netflix, Disney, Visa, and Apple shape our lifestyles, making US consumer culture and capitalist systems significant global exports. They influence how we shop, eat, live, and engage globally.

Tech Innovations

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As the birthplace of the internet, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, not to mention social media, the US’ Silicon Valley is the tech center of the world, redesigning the way we communicate and building an online global cultural hub.

Education

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The excellence of the US education system, particularly its universities, has long dominated the world, attracting international students and contributing significantly to the global exchange of knowledge and ideas.

USAID

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The US maintains a significant presence globally, allocating an impressive $43 billion to USAID each year, contributing to humanitarian aid and education efforts to combat global poverty.

Literature

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American literature, propelled by the likes of literary titans like Ernst Hemingway, T.S Elliot, and Mark Twain, gained international influence post-World War I. Notable for its critique of American society, it contributed to a global understanding of the country, helping to shape perceptions beyond its borders. 

More modern literary icons like Arthur Lee Miller, Suzanne Collins, and Stephen King have made significant contributions through their cinematic and theatrical adaptations, which continue to influence popular culture around the world.

The English Language

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Thanks to Hollywood, American TV shows, films, songs, and computer games have disseminated US English globally, enriched with slang and expressions from popular culture, becoming a widespread medium of communication with a significant global influence.

Modern Art

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The US has produced some of the most talented and groundbreaking artists over the last century, with far-reaching gallery institutions like the MoMA, Guggenheim, and the MET. The likes of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michelle Basquiat, and Jackson Pollock completely revolutionized the industry, creating exciting new movements and a cool creative scene that enraptured the art world.

Fun Fact: During the Cold War, the CIA contributed to the funding of the modern art movement through artists such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union to assert their cultural dominance and artistic prestige. This demonstrated the creativity, intellectual freedom, and cultural power of the US, with which Russian art could not compete and remained confined to the communist ideological straitjacket.

Popular Culture

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A nation built on the rich cultural diversity of immigrants, American popular culture is rooted in Hollywood’s immigrant founders and vibrant sub-cultures. The US wields an impressive global influence due to its universal and relatable storytelling appeal and its media and creative influences. Hollywood’s unique blend of new-world optimism and old-world culture infused with the vibrant history of its citizens transcends borders, making it a powerful force. 

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