Saturday, November 16, 2002

Political Life vs. Culture

Coumarianos makes an interesting point: there may be something in French political life that encourages anti-Americanism other than an infatuation with transnational progressivism. After all, Gaullist France was anything but transnational (which is in this context synonymous with anti-national). Remember Algeria, Indochina? Gaullist resistance to the erosion of the French Empire was motivated primarily by what could charitably be called an intense patriotism. But even in those days, when the threat of Soviet domination loomed large and real, the hyper-nationalist French were hardly the reliable allies of the United States that the British have been, without instance of equivocation, since World War II.

French political life has changed radically since the time of De Gaulle. The most salient feature of that change is the complete abandoment of overt nationalism, the very phenomenon that is reasonably thought to be the motivating force behind the French anti-Americanism of the 50's and 60's. Any yet the French are still somewhat anti-American. A major demographic feature of the change in the political life of France since the early days of the Cold War is its increased cosmopolitanism. France is now a nation of immigrants, many of which (most?) are of Middle Eastern and North African origin -- and Muslim. It may be the case that this ethnic and religious diversity makes any revertion to a more nationalist outlook unlikely, at least while the world remains polarized between the U.S. and its enemies (and its enemies' sympathizers).

But given the obvious changes in French political life over the last forty years and the relative constant of hostility towards the U.S., perhaps the cause of French anti-Americanism doesn't lie there -- at least if political life is defined by such mundane facts as population demographics and policy direction. Perhaps the cause lies deeper -- in French culture.

The line that divides political life from culture is fuzzy at best. Personally I'm sympathetic to the argument that it doesn't exist at all, i.e., that culture and politics are inseparable. But to return to John's point, it seems likely that French anti-Americanism is caused, at least in part, by something other than the adoption of transnational progressivism as raison d'etat. My point is that French transnational progressivism is the key feature of French political life today, so if John wants to look beyond that as a cause of French anti-Americanism, he will have to look beyond 'political life', at least as defined above.


Post a Comment

<< Home