My good friend Andy Markovits
has written an important, engaging, and eye-opening book on the complex and tricky subject of European anti-Americanism. The main focus is on its current forms and transformations, but he also puts these in a larger historical perspective.
This book first appeared in Germany, where Markovits has a significant presence as a public intellectual, with the title Amerika, dich haßt sich's besser
. A revised English-language version has now been published as Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America
. The book is valuable and illuminating as well as absorbing (and highly readable), and I recommend it to everyone.
Markovits's arguments are also likely to be controversial--but many of the reasons only help to explain why this is a book that needed to be written. In a first-rate review for Toronto Globe & Mail
(which I also recommend reading), Jeffrey Kopstein of the University of Toronto very effectively conveys its central thrust:
After decades of writing scholarly books sympathetic to the European left, U.S. political scientist Andrei Markovits is fed up with the anti-Americanism of Europe's intellectual and political elites. Anti-Americanism, Markovits writes, "is unifying West Europeans more than any other political emotion--with the exception of hostility to Israel. In today's Western Europe, these two closely related antipathies and resentments are now considered proper etiquette. They are present in polite company and acceptable in the discourse of the political classes." [....]
Markovits sensibly distinguishes between disapproval of the United States for what it does and dislike of the United States for what it is. The former is not anti-Americanism; the latter is. In practice, however, the line isn't so easy to draw. [....]
Uncouth Nation also raises the crucial question of whether it is possible to build a European identity without demonizing the United States. For the most part, European anti-Americanism has been an elite phenomenon. George Bush, however, has made it possible to close the gap between a "separatist" European elite that wants to break away from the tutelage of the United States and the broad masses who still see themselves as part of the "West." [....] Although these same intellectuals hailed the now-50-year-old project of European integration as a "post-national" exercise, the temptation to use the traditional tools of nation-building in the service of a new pan-European nationalism--including demonizing the "other"--has been irresistible. [....]
And then there is the anti-Semitism. In what is surely his most controversial chapter, Markovits draws the connection between European anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. He maintains that the old and discredited anti-Semitism of the European right has migrated to a new anti-Semitism of the left. [....] Anti-Zionism and the demonization of Israel have become vehicles for the reintroduction of anti-Semitism into respectable European conversation, especially since the Six Day War in 1967. [....] What is disturbing for Markovits is that this is not simply the nutty left but his old buddies, the Social Democrats and the Greens. [....]
To which one can add the jacket blurb for the book contributed by the eminent left-wing American political scientist (and recent President of the American Political Science Association) Ira Katznelson
Disturbing and provocative, this wide-ranging and passionate intervention convenes history, social analysis, and a sense of anxiety to rouse attention to the underside of the European critique of America. Just as it intends, the book will stir comment and debate on both sides of the Atlantic, especially on the Left. For one, I can't wait.
I'll second that. Even the reviewer for the New Statesman
--a publication that often displays precisely the kinds of pathologies analyzed by Markovits--was forced to concede that "Markovits's research is wide-ranging and deep, and he writes with clarity, precision and insight."
=> Markovits is a distinguished scholar of European politics, culture, and political economy. The relationship between Europe and the US also is a matter of personal as well as scholarly significance for him, since his life has made him at home in both worlds--and, unlike some people, he likes them both He was born in Romania and lived there and in Vienna for his first two decades, then has spent his academic career in the US while being immersed in European studies and things European.
One manifestation of his cosmopolitan engagements is that Andy (unlike me) is a passionate sports fan, and this enthusiasm extends both to the hegemonic American sports and to the supreme spectator sport of the world outside the US, soccer. His preoccupation with the question of why the US, almost uniquely, has failed to get swept up in this world soccer culture motivated him to write the definitive book on the comparative historical sociology of mass-frenzy competitive team sports, Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism
. (Princeton University Press, 2001. By the way, this is a fascinating and important book even if you don't happen to be crazy about soccer, cricket, baseball, basketball, and/or American football yourself ... believe it or not.)
Unlike that book, Uncouth Nation
can't exactly be called a labor of love, but it also combines passionate engagement with solid scholarship and insightful analysis. This combination is necessary because anti-Americanism, like most significant ideological phenomena, is a complicated, shifting, and multi-faceted subject about which superficial opinionating is easy and plentiful (including implausible denials that the phenomenon exists at all, often coming from people who are transparently anti-American themselves), but intellectually serious and sophisticated discussion is rarer and more difficult. Uncouth Nation
makes an indispensable contribution to such a discussion, and you don't even have to agree with all of it to find it worth reading and usefully thought-provoking.
=> When the subject of anti-Americanism comes up, some people's first response is to point out that criticisms of American actions, policies, and political leaders, even of American institutions, don't necessarily constitute anti-Americanism. This is absolutely true--in fact, a truism. But of course Markovits recognizes that quite well, so in this case that truism is also beside the point.
Actually, the same distinction can be made with respect to any form of hostility or bias based on ethnicity, race, gender, or anything else. Not every criticism or disagreement is a sign of prejudice or hostility, and in fact even sharp criticisms can, in principle, be objective, constructive, and even friendly. But does it follow that there is never such thing as racism, sexism, religious bigotry, or ethnic antagonism? Few people would seriously claim that. In the real world, there is a point at which specific criticisms shade off into generalized and emotionally charged forms of bias, suspicion, antagonism, fear,denigration, contempt, and/or resentment. The usual signs may include crude stereotyping, habitual use of double standards, criticisms based on contradictory standards, obsessive blaming of the target (plausibly or implausibly) for every real or imagined problem, consistently invidious assessments of all the target's (real or imagined) traits, systematically exaggerated and one-sided condemnations, and so on. In such cases, it eventually becomes clear that something more is going on than just a set of specific criticisms or disagreements, and that it's misleading and ridiculous to focus exclusively on those and ignore the underlying orientations that actually shape and motivate them. Of course, drawing that line is often difficult and subtle in practice, but facing reality requires that we make the effort.
So it is with anti-Americanism, as Markovits shows quite carefully and convincingly, for those who still need to be convinced. Something more is going on. An intelligent and sympathetic review of Uncouth Nation
in the American Prospect
captured the central point nicely:
I feel, having just read Andrei Markovits's Uncouth Nation, a profound satisfaction. [....] [T]he satisfaction comes from seeing someone on the progressive side of the political spectrum actually marshalling the evidence to point out that, while Bush is indeed bad, much of Europe has gone more than just a little loco when it comes to discussing America.
As I already noted, a number of people, including some whom I know to be generally intelligent and well informed, try to claim that there is no significant anti-Americanism in Europe--there are only (justified) disagreements with specific American policies. Well, if people are determined to deny the undeniable, they are unlikely to be dissuaded by mere evidence. But I think that any reader who approaches Markovits's book with an even moderately open mind will have to conclude that he is dealing with a real phenomenon.
Nor can Markovits be dismissed as a Europhobe or as an uncritical apologist for American society, American foreign policies, and/or the Bush administration, since he is clearly none of these things. In US politics Markovits is and has always been a firmly committed left-of-center Democrat, with a passionate and unequivocal hostility to the Bush administration and all its works. (Unlike me, he did not support the 2003 Iraq war.) He favors an independent and viable Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is sympathetic to the peace camp in Israeli politics. And in Europe his closest political sympathies and attachments have always been with parties and movements of the democratic left. It is precisely because of these commitments that he feels especially exasperated with the left-of-center tendencies in current European anti-Americanism.
=> It may be worth underlining some themes and issues raised by Markovits that were already mentioned in the reviews from which I quoted. He recognizes, of course, that the policies of the Bush administration, in both tone and substance, have contributed to a major increase in the breadth and intensity of anti-Americanism in Europe (and elsewhere). But it would be superficial and misleading to focus exclusively on the impact of the Bush administration, since this phenomenon didn't emerge out of nowhere after November 2000, or even after September 2001. It has deeper historical roots than that, both recent and long-term, and it's unlikely to simply fade away after Bush & Cheney leave the White House.
Markovits does argue, though, that there seems to have been at least one notable shift in the social profile of European anti-Americanism during the past 6 years. Over the past two centuries, the shifting varieties of anti-Americanism have mostly been carried by social and political elites and intellectuals. Generally speaking, the bulk of ordinary Europeans have been more likely to hold favorable views about America. What is now happening, however, is that an intensified anti-Americanism on the part of elites and intellectuals has converged with an upsurge in popular anti-Americanism that is unprecedented in its breadth and intensity. This is a new development, and one with potentially important long-term consequences. The reaction against the Bush administration promoted it and helped it to crystallize, but it remains to be seen whether it turns out to be a transitory phenomenon or one that also has deeper and more durable roots.
In this connection, by the way, Markovits notes that efforts to develop a sense of common European identity often seem to be involve defining distinctive "European" values and institutions in opposition to a (real or imagined) American "other." There's no doubt that Markovits is on to something here, and he's not the only one to have noticed this. Of course, these kinds of mechanisms are a normal part of processes for defining and differentiating collective identities (think of the reciprocal roles of French Anglophobia and British Frog-bashing over the centuries), and they can often be relatively harmless, though Markovits is also right to point to some disturbing aspects of the way currently play out in European anti-Americanism. But I can't help noticing that some political currents marked by nationalist and xenophobic opposition to European integration (and immigration) aren't entirely free of anti-American overtones, either--especially given that the US often tends to be symbolically identified with the dangers of "globalization" on both the left and the right. The US can function as a scapegoat for both sides in the debates over European integration.
And then, as Kopsten says, there is the question of anti-semitism. This is a complex matter that needs to be approached carefully but without evasions. Historically, as Markovits shows, there has often been an association between anti-Americanism and anti-semitism in European ideologies. And during the past half-century this picture has been further complicated by the tangled interplay between anti-semitism and the analytically distinct but often overlapping phenomenon of anti-Zionism--that is, systematic bias and hostility against Israel, shading off into obsessive hatred and demonization.
(To head off some standard clichés in advance ... no, criticism of Israel and of Israeli policies doesn't necessarily constitute anti-Zionism, let alone anti-semitism. Criticism of Israel is not the same thing as demonization of Israel, or even bias against Israel. But, once again, this distinction cuts both ways. It would be inaccurate and unfair to equate all criticisms of Israel with demonization of Israel. But on the other hand, people who actually engage in demonizing Israel and exhibit blanket bias and hostility against Israel should not be allowed to pretend that they are simply criticizing objectionable Israeli policies.)
I don't think any serious observer argues that western European societies as a whole are in the grip of outright anti-semitism along the lines of the 1930s or even 1890s (with the significant exception of certain "immigrant" subcultures, whose size is substantial in some countries, where anti-semitism of this sort is disturbingly prevalent). But anti-Zionism, in forms ranging from genteel to hysterical, is pervasive and increasingly mainstream. Furthermore, it is increasingly linked to anti-Americanism, often with the rationale that Israel is a tool or symbol of US imperialism, or else that Israel and its supporters (guess who?) allegedly control US foreign policy, or both. In fact, it is pretty clear that a fair amount of European anti-Zionism and anti-semitism either consists of or is fueled by displaced anti-Americanism. For example, as Markovits points out, it is striking that anti-"globalization" protests not only tend to focus hostility against the US, which is perhaps understandable though a bit simplistic, but also routinely include banners and slogans attacking Israel--a tiny country that, on the face of it, is hard to see as a major force for economic globalization.
Even when anti-Zionist bigotry doesn't take the form of anti-semitism or serve as a euphemistic cover for it, this potent blend of anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism helps to make anti-semitism more respectable in a number of ways. At the very least, it encourages tendencies to trivialize, make excuses for, or even justify manifestations of outright anti-semitism in European societies and around the world. It often leads to exasperation and resentment directed against European and American Jews who fail to distance themselves ostentatiously from Israel and "Zionism"--or who, even worse, have the temerity to criticize anti-Zionism and anti-semitism at all forcefully. (For a good illustration of how this whole dynamic works itself out, see a brief but penetrating recent analysis of the British situation by Shalom Lappin
.) And it has produced a creeping toleration for arguments and imagery that have potentially anti-semitic overtones or that even that go over the edge into the unambiguous recycling of standard anti-semitic themes. (For some striking examples, many of which are also mentioned by Markovits, see here
Readers may or may not agree with every detail of Markovits's analysis of these problems. But there's no question that the problems he has identified are real and important, and they deserve a serious and honest conversation.
=> One last possible objection. In the past, some people whose judgment I respect, and who have not tried to deny the undeniable fact that European anti-Americanism exists, have nevertheless suggested that it's not a sufficiently important problem to warrant much concern. The US, after all, is a wealthy and powerful superpower that can take care of itself. European hostility may wound the pride of some Americans, but it isn't going to do the US much harm, and the idea of serious conflicts between Europe and the US seems fairly implausible.
I think there is a grain of truth to such points, but I'm not entirely convinced. In the first place, it's always a good idea to face reality rather than evading it, and if an analysis like the one offered by Markovits can help or encourage some people to do that, then this is enough to make the effort worthwhile. But there's also more to it than that. In so far as anti-Americanism is one factor that contributes to poisoning relations and mutual understanding between Europeans and Americans (not the only such factor, but definitely one of them), that can potentially create or exacerbate a whole range of problems, especially in areas where constructive Euro-American cooperation is necessary and important. And anti-Americanism clearly helps to distort political judgments about a range of substantively important issues.
And that's not all. A friend and colleague once suggested to me that instead of worrying about the relatively trivial problem of anti-Americanism in Europe, I should spend more time worrying about anti-Zionism and anti-semitism in Europe. Well, as Markovits shows, the unfortunate reality is that the three of them are closely interconnected, and the combination is toxic and dangerous. We need to pay careful attention to it, and Uncouth Nation
should give some people a necessary wake-up call.
=> For an introduction to the book in the author's own words, the Chronicle of Higher Education
constructed a useful overview using selected passages from the text. You can read it below.
Yours for reality-based discourse,
Jeff Weintraub[Update: March 4, 2007]
Jonathan Yardley's intelligent and careful review of Uncouth Nation
in the Washington Post
, "Exploring the roots of anti-Americanism among European elites
," agrees that the elite component of western European anti-Americanism is deep-seated and persistent, but argues that broader manifestations of popular anti-Americanism are more superficial and transitory. I guess time will tell.P.S.
I can't resist adding a personal note, even though it isn't necessarily of direct relevance to Markovits's arguments in this book. As he correctly mentions at one point, you don't necessarily have to be a foreigner to be anti-American. In some ways I don't find it so hard to appreciate the intellectual and emotional temptations of Europhile anti-Americanism, since I went through a pretty intense and formative phase of it myself in my 20s. This no doubt had something to do with specific features of that particular historical period--that is, the late 1960s and early 1970s. But I suspect that for two centuries a phase of this sort, in one form or another, has often been standard part of the maturation process for would-be intellectuals in American society. (And I don't just mean left-wing or bohemian intellectuals--consider T.S. Eliot or Henry James, for example.) It might be thought of as a kind of Oedipal break from what feels like the all-encompassing stranglehold of American culture, including American anti-intellectualism, or perhaps a process of inner withdrawal and return. And an engagement with European thought, culture, and politics has often been the focus for this withdrawal and return, whether that meant actually going to Europe physically or just doing it in imagination.
I recall a conversation I had about three decades ago with one of my intellectual mentors, who at that point had a considerably more balanced attitude toward America than I did, in which he mentioned that in the long run it made a big difference whether or not someone had ever experienced a moment of radical doubt about American society. I immediately recognized the force of that remark. But it also makes a big difference whether one experiences this moment of estrangement as a point of developmental transition, and gradually finds a way to move beyond it, or instead gets stuck in it indefinitely. Both history and my own observations have made it clear to me that some people withdraw but never return.
=========================Chronicle of Higher Education
(Volume 53, Issue 20 - Chronicle Review
, p. B6)
January 19, 2007Western Europe's America Problem
By Andrei S. MarkovitsAndrei S. Markovits is a professor of comparative politics and German studies at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. This essay is adapted from his book Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America
, to be published this month by Princeton University Press.
When my father and I arrived in the United States as immigrants from Romania — by way of Vienna — in the summer of 1960, we spent a number of weeks living with American families in the greater New York area. Some were Jews, like us; most were not. But all spoke some German because our English was virtually nonexistent at the time. What impressed me no end, and will always remain with me, was how all those people adored my Viennese-accented German, how they reveled in it, found it elegant, charming, and above all oh-so-cultured. For business and family reasons, my father had to return to Vienna, where I attended the Theresianische Akademie, one of Austria's leading gymnasia. The welcome accorded to me in that environment was much colder and more distant than it had been in the United States, not by dint of my being a Tschusch
and a Zuagraster,
an interloper from the disdained eastern areas of Europe, but by virtue of having become a quasi American.
From the get-go until my graduation, many years later, I was always admonished by my English teachers, in their heavily accented, Viennese-inflected English, not to speak this abomination of an "American dialect" or "American slang," and never to use "American spelling," with its simplifications that testified prima facie to the uncultured and simpleton nature of Americans. Of course any of my transgressions, be it chatting in class or playing soccer in the hallways, was met with an admonition of, "Markovits, we are not in the Wild West, we are not in Texas. Behave yourself." Viennese-accented German, wonderful; American-accented English, awful. The pattern still pertains nearly 50 years later.
Any trip to Europe confirms what surveys have been finding: The aversion to America is becoming greater, louder, more determined. It is unifying Western Europeans more than any other political emotion — with the exception of a common hostility toward Israel. Indeed, the virulence in Western Europe's antipathy to Israel cannot be understood without the presence of anti-Americanism and hostility to the United States. Those two closely related resentments are now considered proper etiquette. They are present in polite company and acceptable in the discourse of the political classes. They constitute common fare not only among Western Europe's cultural and media elites, but also throughout society itself, from London to Athens and from Stockholm to Rome, even if European politicians visiting Washington or European professors at international conferences about anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism are adamant about denying or sugarcoating that reality.
There can be no doubt that many disastrous and irresponsible policies by members of the Bush administration, as well as their haughty demeanor and arrogant tone, have contributed massively to this unprecedented vocal animosity on the part of Europeans toward Americans and America. Indeed, they bear responsibility for having created a situation in which anti-Americanism has mutated into a sort of global antinomy, a mutually shared language of opposition to and resistance against the real and perceived ills of modernity that are now inextricably identified with America. I have been traveling back and forth with considerable frequency between the United States and Europe since 1960, and I cannot recall a time like the present, when such a vehement aversion to everything American has been articulated in Europe. No Western European country is exempt from this phenomenon — not a single social class, no age group or profession, nor either gender. But the aversion reaches much deeper and wider than the frequently evoked "anti-Bushism." I perceive this virulent, Europewide, and global "anti-Bushism" as the glaring tip of a massive anti-American iceberg.
Anti-Americanism has been promoted to the status of Western Europe's lingua franca. Even at the height of the Vietnam War, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and during the dispute over NATO's Dual Track decision (to station Pershing and cruise missiles primarily in Germany, but in other Western European countries as well, while negotiating with the Soviet Union over arms reduction), things were different. Each event met with a European public that was divided concerning its position toward America: In addition to those who reacted with opposition and protest, there were strong forces that expressed appreciation and understanding. In France, arguably Europe's leader over the past 15 years in most matters related to antipathy toward America, the prospect of stationing U.S. medium-range missiles, especially if they were on German soil, even met with the massive approval of the left in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
But as of October 2001, weeks after 9/11 and just before the U.S. war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, a massive Europewide resentment of America commenced that reached well beyond American policies, American politics, and the American government, proliferating in virtually all segments of Western European publics. From grandmothers who vote for the archconservative Bavarian Christian Social Union to 30-year-old socialist Pasok activists in Greece, from Finnish Social Democrats to French Gaullists, from globalization opponents to business managers — all are joining in the ever louder chorus of anti-Americanism.
The Bush administration's policies have catapulted global and Western European anti-Americanism into overdrive. But to understand that overdrive, we need to analyze the conditions under which this kind of shift into high gear could occur. Western Europeans' unconditional rejection of and legitimate outrage over abusive and irresponsible American policies — not to mention massive human-rights violations à la Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, secret CIA cells — rest on a substantial sediment of hatred toward, disdain for, and resentment of America that has a long tradition in Europe and has flourished apart from those or any other policies.
Ambivalence, antipathy, and resentment toward and about the United States have made up an important component of European culture since the American Revolution, thus way before America became the world's "Mr. Big" — the proverbial 800-pound gorilla — and a credible rival to Europe's main powers, particularly Britain and France. In recent years, following the end of the cold war, and particularly after 9/11, ambivalence in some quarters has given way to unambiguous hostility. Animosity toward the United States has migrated from the periphery and become a respectable part of the European mainstream.
Negative sentiments and views have been driven not only — or even primarily — by what the United States does, but rather by an animus against what Europeans have believed that America is. While the politics, style, and discourse of the Bush terms — and of President Bush as a person — have undoubtedly exacerbated anti-American sentiment among Europeans and fostered a heretofore unmatched degree of unity between elite and mass opinion in Europe, they are not anti-Americanism's cause. Indeed, a change to a center-left administration in Washington, led by a Democratic president, would not bring about its abatement, let alone its disappearance.
Anti-Americanism constitutes a particular prejudice that renders it not only acceptable but indeed commendable in the context of an otherwise welcome discourse that favors the weak. Just as in the case of any prejudice, anti-Americanism also says much more about those who hold it than about the object of its ire and contempt. But where it differs markedly from "classical" prejudices — such as anti-Semitism, homophobia, misogyny, and racism — is in the dimension of power. Jews, gays and lesbians, women, and ethnic minorities rarely if ever have any actual power in or over the majority populations or the dominant gender of most countries. However, the real, existing United States does have considerable power, which has increasingly assumed a global dimension since the end of the 19th century, and which has, according to many scholarly analyses, become unparalleled in human history.
While other public prejudices, particularly against the weak, have — in a fine testimony to progress and tolerance over the past 40 years — become largely illegitimate in the public discourse of most advanced industrial democracies (the massive change in the accepted language over the past three decades in those societies about women, gays, the physically challenged, minorities of all kinds, and animals, to name but a few, has been nothing short of fundamental), nothing of the sort pertains to the perceived and the actually strong. Thus anti-Americanism not only remains acceptable in many circles but has even become commendable, a badge of honor, and perhaps one of the most distinct icons of what it means to be a progressive these days.
So, too, with hostility to Israel. Because of its association with the United States, Israel is perceived by its European critics as powerful, with both countries seen as mere extensions of one another. To be sure, there is something else at work here as well, because America has many other powerful allies that never receive anywhere near the hostile scrutiny that Israel confronts on a daily basis. Clearly, the fact that Israel is primarily a Jewish state, combined with Europe's deeply problematic and unresolved history with Jews, plays a central role in European anti-Semitism. But today we are witnessing a "new" anti-Semitism that adds to traditional stereotypes: It is an epiphenomenon of anti-Americanism.
The Swiss legal theorist Gret Haller has written extensively to a very receptive and wide audience about America's being fundamentally — and irreconcilably — different from (and, of course, inferior to) Europe from the very founding of the American republic. To Haller, the manner in which the relationships among state, society, law, and religion were constructed and construed in America are so markedly contrary to its European counterpart that any bridge or reconciliation between those two profoundly different views of life is neither possible nor desirable. Hence Europe should draw a clear line that separates it decisively from America. In a discussion with panelists and audience members at a conference on European anti-Americanism at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, on April 29, 2005, at which I shared the podium with Haller, she explicitly and repeatedly emphasized that Britain had always belonged to Europe, and that the clear demarcation was never to run along the channel separating Britain from the European continent, but across the ever-widening Atlantic that rightly divided a Britain-encompassing Europe from an America that from the start featured many more differences from than similarities to Europe. The past few years have merely served to render those differences clearer and to highlight their irreconcilable nature.
That widely voiced indictment accuses America of being retrograde on three levels: moral (America's being the purveyor of the death penalty and of religious fundamentalism, as opposed to Europe's having abolished the death penalty and adhering to an enlightened secularism); social (America's being the bastion of unbridled "predatory capitalism," to use the words of former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, and of punishment, as opposed to Europe as the home of the considerate welfare state and of rehabilitation); and cultural (America the commodified, Europe the refined; America the prudish and prurient, Europe the savvy and wise).
Indeed, in an interesting debate in Germany about so-called defective democracies, the United States seems to lead the way. Without a substantial "social" component, a democracy's defects are so severe that one might as well consider labeling such a system nondemocratic, or at best defectively democratic. To be sure, no serious observer of the United States would dispute the considerable defectiveness of its political system. But what matters in this context is not so much the often appropriate indictment of American democracy, but the total silence about the defects of German and (Western) European democracy. As Klaus Faber, one of this argument's major progressive critics, has correctly countered, surely most segregated and alienated immigrants in the suburbs of Paris or the dreary streets of Berlin would be less likely than America's critics to extol German and French democracies as free of any defects. Indeed, if one extends the "social" dimension to include the successful integration of immigrants, surely America's democracy would emerge as much less defective than the alleged models of Western Europe.
Many of the components of European anti-Americanism have been alive and well in Europe's intellectual discourse since the late 18th century. The tropes about Americans' alleged venality, mediocrity, uncouthness, lack of culture, and above all inauthenticity have been integral and ubiquitous to European elite opinion for well over 200 years. But a bevy of examples from all walks of life highlights how pervasive and quotidian anti-Americanism has become. I have collected my examples from outside of what one would conventionally associate with politics precisely to demonstrate that the European animus against things American has little to do with the policies of the Bush administration — or any other administration, for that matter — and is alive and well in realms that have few connections to politics.
Let us turn to language: In German, the terms "Amerikaniesierung" (Americanization) and "amerikanische Verhältnisse" or "amerikanische Bedingungen" (American conditions) almost invariably refer to something at once negative and threatening — something to be avoided. Thus, for example, the Junge Union (the youth branch of the conservative Christian Democratic Union) derided the Social Democratic Party's attempts to introduce primaries on the American model, insisting that German politics needed democratization, not Americanization. The union equated the former with competence in problem solving, the latter with blowing bubbles in the air. For its part, the left has made "Americanization" a pejorative staple of its vocabulary. In Britain, "Americanisation" and "American-style" also have an almost exclusively negative connotation — often with the adjective "creeping" as a telling modifier in front: the creeping Americanization of the car's feel for the road, the cult of guns fueled by creeping Americanization through violent films, the creeping Americanization of the growing girth of British novels, the creeping Americanization of British sport.
Indeed, it seems as if the British find every aspect of the sporting world's Americanization fearful. Thus, for example, The Guardian reported complaints in 1995 that British stadiums have increasingly come to resemble those in America and are now equipped with good seats, restaurants, and even dance floors: Abolishing those infamous standing-room sections, or "terraces," where nearly 100 people lost their lives in riots at Hillsborough in Sheffield, has made the sport too "nice." In 1998 The Independent intoned: "The creeping Americanisation of British sports, in terms of ubiquitous coverage and potential for earning, means that niceness is at a higher premium than ever before." Americanization has also been blamed for taming fans, who previously cared passionately about whatever game they were watching; now they allegedly attend events primarily to see and be seen.
The world of soccer offers a fine example of my point because, whatever one wants to argue about this sport and its culture, it is clear that the United States was at best an also-ran in it throughout the 20th century. America simply did not matter — and still matters very little — in the world of soccer. It was never a threat to Europe; or, to put the point in the right style, America was never a "player." Nevertheless, the discourse about this game on the European side has always had a cynical, aggressive, irritating, and above all condescending tone.
When the United States was chosen as host of the World Cup for the summer of 1994, many of the European news and entertainment media were appalled. Instead of rejoicing that the last important terra incognita for soccer was about to be conquered by the "beautiful game," Europeans loudly voiced the usual objections to American crassness, vulgarity, commercialism, and ignorance. They argued that giving the tournament to the Americans was tantamount to degrading the game and its tradition. Awarding Americans the World Cup was like holding a world championship in skiing in a country in the Sahara or playing a major golf tournament in Greenland — an anomaly bordering on impudence, cheekiness, and inauthenticity, since, in the European view, the environment wasn't suited to the sport. The facilities were denigrated, the organization ridiculed, the whole endeavor treated with derision. When the stadiums were filled like in no other World Cup tournament before or since, when the level of violence and arrests was far and away the lowest at any event that size, the European media chalked it up to the stupidity and ignorance of Americans. Of course Americans came to the games because they like events and pageantry, but did they really enjoy and understand the sport?
The concept "Americanization" also connotes, to give another example, every kind of deterioration in the European world of work — stress through job insecurity, disqualification through work intensification, "flexibility," "mobility" — and is a synonym for all things negative in the very complex entity of a rapidly changing capitalism. People criticize an alleged decline in workmanship and quality of European products, for which they blame the increased competition that Americanization exacts. And the quantity of work is constantly expanding, particularly for managers and others in leading positions. The oxymoron "working vacation" has entered the European vernacular, which again testifies to an Americanization of Europe's work life. Yet rarely, if ever, have I read anything about a purported "Japanization" or — of increasing relevance — "Chinazation" of European work life.
Or consider European discussions of higher education. When, in an article about the American higher-education system that I wrote for the magazine Spiegel Spezial, I praised the seriousness with which teaching is viewed in America and also (in contrast to the situation in Germany) evaluated by students, I received numerous letters of protest from my German colleagues. "We are not, thank God, in America, where universities are just upgraded [secondary] schools," wrote one furious correspondent. That students might be allowed to evaluate their professors' teaching was rejected by almost all of my German colleagues as a bad American habit that commercialized the university and damaged professorial and scholarly autonomy. The late conservative Cologne sociologist Erwin K. Scheuch, spokesman for the equally conservative Bund Freiheit der Wissneschaft (Federation for Academic Freedom, founded in 1970), had been warning against Americanization in German universities for some time. In a 2002 lecture, "Model America," he argued that only some 50 institutions of higher education in America deserve the term "university." He went on to call for blocking any attempt to introduce American course credits to German institutions, and decried the introduction of performance-oriented salaries, which he said would destroy Germany's "collegial structures."
Across the Channel, in a 1994 article in The Guardian, the journalist Peter Kingston wrote, "Bubblegum University's funny ways are becoming familiar in colleges over here. The huge range and exotic combinations of courses, the spoon-feeding mode of classroom teaching, the obsession with grades, the general acceptance that many students have to take jobs through college," he wrote, "these have become standard features of universitas Britannica." Note: Bubblegum University goes with the purported lowering of traditional standards. It can hardly get more stigmatizing than that.
It is only to be expected that European conservatives would make fun of American feminism, multiculturalism, affirmative action, and the related reform movements that are allegedly ruling the best universities in the United States. There is a bevy of material that mocks such reforms under the rubric of "political correctness." Damned if you do, damned if you don't. While Europeans, as a rule, have complained about the arrogance and elitism of American universities, now they are reproaching them for the exact opposite: that their achievements are being destroyed by the unqualified in the name of political correctness. However, Europe's left-wing liberals have just as much trouble tolerating the themes that are part of that complex. While the thrust of their criticism is different, the tenor is surprisingly similar. During the Clinton-Lewinsky crisis, many European leftists regarded the critical position of some American feminists toward Clinton as laughable. Of course puritanism was (again) to blame.
The Americanization of many aspects of the legal worlds and the administration of justice in Europe also raises anxiety. At an informal meeting with trade unionists in 2002, Germany's former Justice Minister Hertha Däubler-Gmelin claimed that America has a lausiges or "lousy" legal system. That view is widely shared in European intellectual circles. There is also a disparaging of America's "claims mentality" and the rapacious litigiousness thought to accompany it. The possibility of introducing courtroom television broadcasts into Germany is seen as succumbing to "American conditions." In Britain, the perceived menace is wide-ranging: ever-larger law firms, higher fees for top-flight attorneys, an epidemic of lawsuits, the proliferation of special courts as part of a doubtful "therapeutic justice"--all are creeping and creepy.
European holidays are allegedly increasingly Americanized, with Santa Claus displacing the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus at Christmas, with the semi-pagan Halloween becoming more prominent, and with birthday celebrations supplanting "name day" ceremonies of yore. Even the wildlife is said to be succumbing to America's influence: In Hamburg and Vienna, there is a growing resentment that predatory black squirrels, brought to Europe from America, are displacing their indigenous, more peaceful cousins.
All of these "Americanizations" bemoan an alleged loss of purity and authenticity for Europeans at the hands of a threatening and unwelcome intruder who — to make matters worse — exhibits a flaring cultural inferiority. America is resented for everything and its opposite: It is at once too prurient and too puritanical; too elitist, yet also too egalitarian; too chaotic, but also too rigid; too secular and too religious; too radical and too conservative. Again, damned if you do, damned if you don't.
The future of anti-Americanism in Europe's public discourse will remain deeply tied to the fate of Europe's unification process, one of the most ambitious political projects anywhere in the world. Fundamentally, the European views about America have little to do with the real America but much to do with Europe. Europe's anti-Americanism has become an essential ingredient in — perhaps even a key mobilizing agent for — the inevitable formation of a common European identity, which I have always longed for and continue to support vigorously, although I would have preferred to witness a different agency in its creation. Anti-Americanism has already commenced to forge a concrete, emotionally experienced — as opposed to intellectually constructed — European identity, in which Swedes and Greeks, Finns and Italians are helped to experience their still-frail emotive commonality not as "anti-Americans" but as Europeans, which at this stage constitutes one sole thing: that they are "non-Americans."
Anti-Americanism will serve as a useful mobilizing agent to create awareness in Europe for that continent's new role as a growing power bloc in explicit contrast to and keen competition with the United States, not only among Europeans but also around the globe. Anti-Americanism has already begun to help create a unified European voice in global politics and will continue to be of fine service to Europe's growing power in a new global constellation of forces, in which an increasingly assertive Europe will join an equally assertive China to challenge the United States on every issue that it possibly can.
For the time being, there seem to be no visible incentives for Europeans to desist from anti-Americanism. Its tone is popular among European publics. Far from harming Europe and its interests, anti-Americanism has helped Europeans gain respect, affection, and — most important — political clout in the rest of the world. Anti-Americanism has become a European currency whose value fluctuates greatly, but whose existence does represent a chip that Europe will cash in with increasing gusto. By cultivating an anti-American position, Europe feigns membership in a global opposition of the downtrodden by America.
It is completely unclear which direction and what kind of political and symbolic content this waving of the European flag will assume: a negative, exclusionary, and therefore arrogant identity formation that Hannah Arendt labeled "Europeanism," or a positive and universalistic ideology that builds on the commonalities of Western values and then forms the basis for further European state and nation building. But there can be no doubt about one thing: Outfitted with a mass base and a congruence between elite and mass opinion, anti-Americanism could, for the first time in its long European history, become a powerful political force going well beyond the ambivalences, antipathies, and resentments that have continuously shaped the intellectual life of Europe since July 5, 1776.