The New British Invasion: Are “we” similar to “them”?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series The New British Invasion
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Face it: Americans are Anglophiles.

Historically we haven’t always been. Our love of the UK rolls in waves over the past century but right now everywhere you look, our special relationship with the UK dominates category after category of global news.

Where did the US and Russia square off for last-ditch talks over Crimea? London. Who did the New York Times just feature on the cover of its Style Magazine as “The Accidental Superstar”? Benedict Cumberbach, the newest Sherlock, who the Times calls a global trend setter. What series is setting records for the PBS network? Downton Abbey. And, the CBS network just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ British Invasion.

Even in the realm of religion, many American Protestants are looking to stars from the UK to help them survive and revive in tough times. Americans have done this for a long time, starting with C.S. Lewis. Now they’re increasingly looking to stars like N.T. Wright, the Iona writers and others—like theologian Ann Morisy.

But how similar are these two nations?

A dominant view is that the UK is a class-bound society while the US is not. Brits inherit their class of origin—whether it’s living “upstairs” like the wealthy Crawley family in Downton Abbey or “downstairs” like the servant class.

But, how true is this assumption? What’s become known as the “Great Gatsby Curve” is quite revealing. This graph plots the relationship between economic inequality (how big the gap is between rich and poor) and intergenerational social immobility (how likely a person will stay in the parents’ same income level). Alan Krueger, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers introduced the curve in a 2012 speech.

What we see is that the US and UK are close cousins with similarly high levels on both scales: inequality and high levels of immobility. In other words, Americans and Brits are similar to the class-bound Downton Abbey, at least in terms of income.

Where is the highest mobility—a high probability that the next generation can rise to a higher income class? Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Canada are the mobility winners.

Would you consider yourself an Anglophile?

How do you explain the “new” British Invasion?

In what other ways are the US and UK similar?

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  1. David Thompson says

    There is no “New Invasion”!, Where have you been? Kate Middleton is just replacing Princess Di; Downton Abbey replaces Upstairs/Downstairs; Benedict Cumberbach, merely replaces Jeremy Brett,(THE definitive Sherlock Holmes, by the way). PBS would be nowhere without David Attenborough’s Nature series through the years nor would Canada have “The Nature of Things” with David Suzuki! Poking fun at the British Caste system has always been an American pastime and as we watch these there is a subtle underlying superiority that comes into play and is played out in the actual programs. Even the Beatles thumbed their noses at the British and moved here. As to money making the class system; What is new? Had we not the robber barons, Carnegie’s, Kennedy’s, Hurst and all the others before and again now? There is nothing NEW here but you’re trying to make it so.