The first chapter of Irresistible Empire, “The Service Ethic,” introduces the reader to the international influence of American culture. The author opens with a comparative analysis of the German town of Dresden and the town of Duluth, Minnesota. She highlights how Dresden has historically been inhabited by both working poor and elite classes but defined by gestures of a lasting bourgeois culture. On the other hand, Duluth has historically been a town with more visible working camaraderie as opposed to aristocratic formality. However, these two cities were equally important to defining larger regional culture. Duluth embodies the unique, hopeful nature of the United States of America, and Dresden embodies European cultural values.
After discussing the cultural background of these two cities, the author describes how Duluth became famous through the literary success of the writer Sinclair Lewis. She explains that Lewis became the first American to win the Nobel prize for literature as an example of a way American urban culture became known to a worldwide audience. Lewis created the literary character George F. Babbitt, who symbolizes the values of the American middle class. The author then describes how the Rotary ideals of American culture that Babbitt embodied, and that defined cities like Duluth, spread to European cities.
The chapter then provides an overview of the development of Rotary. From its birth in Chicago in the 1930s to its global revival in the 1990s, the author explains Rotary’s role in spreading uniquely American cultural ideologies across the Atlantic ocean.