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Rotary International and the Selling of American Capitalism

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A new history of Rotary International shows how the organization reinforced capitalist values and cultural practices at home and tried to remake the world in the idealized image of Main Street America.

Rotary International was born in Chicago in 1905. By the time World War II was over, the organization had made good on its promise to “girdle the globe.” Rotary International and the Selling of American Capitalism explores the meteoric rise of a local service club that brought missionary zeal to the spread of American-style economics and civic ideals.

Brendan Goff traces Rotary’s ideological roots to the business progressivism and cultural internationalism of the United States in the early twentieth century. The key idea was that community service was intrinsic to a capitalist way of life. The tone of “service above self” was often religious, but, as Rotary looked abroad, it embraced Woodrow Wilson’s secular message of collective security and international cooperation: civic internationalism was the businessman’s version of the Christian imperial civilizing mission, performed outside the state apparatus. The target of this mission was both domestic and global. The Rotarian, the organization’s publication, encouraged Americans to see the world as friendly to Main Street values, and Rotary worked with U.S. corporations to export those values. Case studies of Rotary activities in Tokyo and Havana show the group paving the way for encroachments of U.S. power—economic, political, and cultural—during the interwar years.

Rotary’s evangelism on behalf of market-friendly philanthropy and volunteerism reflected a genuine belief in peacemaking through the world’s “parliament of businessmen.” But, as Goff makes clear, Rotary also reinforced American power and interests, demonstrating the tension at the core of U.S.-led internationalism.

Συγγραφέας: Goff Brendan
Εκδότης: HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
Σελίδες: 456
ISBN: 9780674989795
Εξώφυλλο: Σκληρό Εξώφυλλο
Αριθμός Έκδοσης: 1
Έτος έκδοσης: 2021
  • Map: The First 300 Rotary Clubs Founded to June 1917
  • Map: The First Rotary Club in Each Country and Region throughout the World, 1905–1958
  • Introduction: The Civic Internationalism of Main Street
  • 1. Cooperation among Gentlemen: Main Street Meets the World
  • 2. No Foreigners Allowed: The World Meets Main Street
  • 3. The Elimination of Differences: Main Street Meets Tokyo
  • 4. Through Earthquake and Fire: Tokyo Meets Main Street
  • 5. Under the Shadow of Rotary: When Main Streets Compete
  • 6. Trailing along through Asia: Main Street Comes Full Circle
  • Conclusion: From Here On!
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

Brendan Goff is an independent scholar who writes about U.S. cultural, international, and business history. He was most recently Assistant Professor of History at New College of Florida, and was formerly a fellow at the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Michigan.

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