Monday, May 04, 2009

A Genealogy Of Anti-Americanism

James Caesar, a professor of politics at UVA, wrote a sweeping perspective of European Anti-Americanism, covering 400 years of mythology about us.

America was founded, as we remember, by Europeans. Natives and Africans contributed to the mix (to the horror of Europeans who now call us racist), but there was another difference between us, one often noted by North Americans, never by Europeans. Our ancestors are the people who left; theirs were the ones who stayed. Though that difference might be small individually, when multiplied over an entire population it became enormous. The new environment called out even more differences.

Caesar's essay divides anti-Americanism into five rough stages, each shading into the next. I read it a few years ago and have been looking for it ever since. Heidigger's disdain for our having no deep historical culture is particularly ironic in view of how little Europeans know about 20th C history.
If you remove anti-Americanism, nothing remains of French political thought today, either on the Left or on the Right. Jean-Francois Revel


Gringo said...

Our ancestors are the people who left; theirs were the ones who stayed.Many malcontents went to America. Those who were content with the status quo remained in Europe.

The difference between Europe and America definitely shows in religion.Those to whom religion was important but who were not permitted religious freedom in Europe, left Europe and went to America. Over the generations, America has self-selected for those to whom religion was important. Their leaving Europe also reduced the proportion in Europe of people to whom religion was important.

Centuries later: those to whom religion is important constitute a greater proportion of the US population than the European population.

We also recognize that secular/unreligious people also left Europe for America.

Not only do I have Quakers in my ancestry, but also some "Dutch" whose ancestors had fled Germany in the previous century for the religious freedom of the Netherlands.

Disclaimer: the closest I got to religion was LRY. Actually a pretty good intro to comparative religion.

Anonymous said...

Caesar's recommendation about not ignoring all criticism from Europe would be a lot easier to accomodate if the quality of the criticism were better. After more than 20 years in Europe, I have found most criticism to be contradictory, unrealistic, condescending, and hypocritical. I'll adapt a rather famous phrase from our low-brow culture: Frankly, dear Europe, I don't give a d**n what you say.