Thursday, October 10, 2002

Our Dogs Bark

An interesting review in the International Herald Tribune discusses two French books on French anti-Americanism praised below. The publication and popularity of these books reflect an increasing self-knowledge on the part of the French that justifies IA's praise. Collin has already summarized the first book, Jean Francois Revel's "L'Obsession anti-americaine," previously for us. The second book, Philippe Roger's "L'Ennemi americain," has apparently been received well in France despite its central argument concerning the utilization of anti-Americanism as an effacement of France's internal antagonisms.

Roger identifies claims of American coarseness, ingratitutde, degeneration, violence, and anti-democratic instincts as perennial themes in French commentary on America. The lack of powerful waves of French immigrants to the US, the intellectual affinity for communism which treated Eisenhower as Hitler's heir, an undue respect for German intellectual life which bashed the US as anti-spiritual and non-intellectual, the US (dubbed "Uncle Shylock") demand for payment of war debts in the 1920s, the American defeat of Spanish colonial forces in Manila and Havana, and the North's victory over the South in the civil war have all contributed to French anti-Americanism.

According to the review, Roger also mentions eighteenth century "scientific" arguements against America which claimed that the New World stunted intellectual development and possessed inferior plant and animal life than Europe. One is reminded of Alexander Hamilton's mention in the Federalist of one of these pseudo-scientific anti-American arguments that dogs cease to bark in the New World.

Until these books are translated, the surest guide for English-only readers to the history of European anti-Americanism is James Ceaser's "Reconstructing America" which details anti-Americanism from the eighteenth century French naturalist, Buffon, to the postmodernist Baudrillard.



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