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Reasserting America in the 1970s: US Public Diplomacy and the Rebuilding of America's Image Abroad

Reasserting America in the 1970s brings together two areas of burgeoning scholarly interest.

Giles Scott-Smith
01 January 2016

On the one hand, scholars are investigating the many ways in which the 1970s constituted a profound era of transition in the international order. The American defeat in Vietnam, the breakdown of the Bretton Woods exchange system and a string of domestic setbacks including Watergate, Three-Mile Island and reversals during the Carter years all contributed to a grand reappraisal of the power and prestige of the United States in the world. In addition, the rise of new global competitors such as Germany and Japan, the pursuit of détente with the Soviet Union and the emergence of new private sources of global power contributed to uncertainty.

At the same time, within diplomatic history proper, the study of “public diplomacy” has generated searching reappraisals of many of the field's certitudes. This scholarship has now begun to move into a new conceptual maturity with a developing theoretical base underwriting its institutional narratives, borrowing to a great degree from the literature on “Americanization” and the role of American culture abroad in various national and regional settings.

Reasserting America in the 1970s brings together these two areas of topical scholarly interest, to study how American public diplomats at home and abroad struggled to maintain American cultural preeminence in a world of shifting challenges to American power.

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