Modernization as Ideology
American Social Science and "Nation Building" in the Kennedy Era
Michael E. Latham
After tracing the rise of modernization theory in American social science, Latham analyzes the way its core assumptions influenced the Kennedy administration's Alliance for Progress with Latin America, the creation of the Peace Corps, and the strategic hamlet program in Vietnam. But as he demonstrates, modernizers went beyond insisting on the relevance of America's experience to the dilemmas faced by impoverished countries. Seeking to accelerate the movement of foreign societies toward a liberal, democratic, and capitalist modernity, Kennedy and his advisers also reiterated a much deeper sense of their own nation's vital strengths and essential benevolence. At the height of the Cold War, Latham argues, modernization recast older ideologies of Manifest Destiny and imperialism.