The American Enemy: The History of French Anti-Americanism / Edition 2

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Overview

"Georges-Louis Buffon, an eighteenth-century French scientist, was the first to promote the widespread idea that nature in the New World was deficient. Buffon, as Philippe Roger demonstrates here, was just one of the first in a long line of Frenchmen who have built a history of anti-Americanism in that country, a progressive history that, though it flirts with absurdity, has nonetheless been a continuous and powerful current in French intellectual and political life. The American Enemy is Roger's best-selling and universally acclaimed history of French anti-Americanism, presented here in English translation for the first time." Roger goes back 200 years to unearth the deep roots of this anti-Americanism and trace its changing nature, from the belittling, as Buffon did, of the "savage American" to France's resigned dependency on America for goods and commerce and finally to the fear of America's global domination in light of France's thwarted imperial ambitions. Roger sees French anti-Americanism as barely acquainted with actual fact; rather, anti-Americanism is a cultural pillar for the French, America an idea that the country and its culture have long defined themselves against.
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Editorial Reviews

The Nation
The American Enemy makes lively reading, due in no small part to the author's energetic, ironic commentary. Roger—a professor at the Sorbonne—has assembled a gallery of all the negative commonplaces, stereotypes and cliches about the United States: bad climate, savage natives, Indian-killers, slavedrivers, robber barons, capitalist fat cats, unlivable cities, soulless scientists, etc. The caricatures are occasionally drawn by some of France's finest pens, and they get our attention. As this culture of complaint builds and ramifies, we witness the birth and development of an intellectual reflex.—Stephen Sartarelli, The Nation

— Stephen Sartarelli

World Policy Journal
Philippe Roger, the author of works ranging from studies of the Enlightenment to Roland Barthes, makes brilliant mischief from the very first words of his "genealogy" of French anti-Americanism. . . . This enlisting of the nexus of love and hate, of slavery to opposing passions, is an exhilarating way of launching a study of attitudes, of liberating the atavism of animosities from the contingencies of events and circumstances. Roger argues that the roots of French anti-Americanism lie in the doubts of Enlightenment science that the New World was a viable one at all.—Bill Grantham, World Policy Journal

— Bill Grantham

New Yorker
A brilliant and exhaustive guide to the history of French Ameriphobia.—Simon Schama, New Yorker

— Simon Schama

Times Literary Supplement
Roger concentrates on one country—France—and takes the long, historical view. French anti-Americanism, he shows in The American Enemy, goes back to the eighteenth century. . . . Anti-Americanism goes back a long way, and Philippe Roger does an impressive job of unravelling its various strands and tracing their ancestry.—Henri Astier, Times Literary Supplement

— Henri Astier

New York Review of Books
Philippe Roger has written a superb history of French anti-Americanism, elegant, learned, witty. This enjoyable exercise, in the very best traditions of French scholarship, richly deserves to be published in English translation, unabridged. The book's argument is far too subtle and intricate to summarize briefly, but the word "genealogy" in the title should be taken seriously. . . . In nearly six hundred pages of close textual exegesis, Roger demonstrates not only that the core of French anti-Americanism is very old indeed, but also that it was always fanciful, only loosely attached to American reality.—Tony Judt, New York Review of Books

— Tony Judt

New York Times
Mr. Roger almost single-handedly creates a new field of study, tracing the nuances and imagery of anti-Americanism in France over 250 years. He shows that far from being a specific reaction to recent American policies, it has been knit into the very substance of French intellectual and cultural life. . . . His book stuns with its accumulated detail and analysis.—Edward Rothstein, New York Times

— Edward Rothstein

The Economist

"The great novelty of Philippe Roger's meticulously researched book, first published in 2002 and now translated into English, is how much further back French anti-Americanism reaches. . . . A bible for students of anti-Americanism."--Economist
Sunday Telegraph (London)
Here is a tasty statistic: when the US went into Iraq a survey showed that America's popularity plunged everywhere—except in France. The French opposed the invasion vehemently, but the country was already so saturated in anti-Americanism that the index scarcely flickered. Which makes Philippe Roger a brave and lonely man. His book is that seemingly impossible thing: an attack on French Americophobia written by a Frenchman. For, as he demonstrates in this scholarly yet highly entertaining work, the French allergy to all things American is a national psychosis which today tells us more about the condition of France than it does about the United States. . . . For all its amusing vignettes, Philippe Roger's message is sober, and a foreword asks an excellent question: how far is the demonising of America, not just in France but the world over, helping to convert a war of words into a more fearsome conflict?—George Walden, Sunday Telegraph

— George Walden

New Statesman
The dangers of clumsy translations and cultural misunderstandings are central to the arguments Philippe Roger makes in his timely and wise book. Roger sets out to show that French anti-Americanism has been less a product of genuine antagonism than the result of a series of misunderstandings. To Roger's dismay, these misunderstandings—sometimes wilful, but often based on genuine confusion—have come to play a central role in French identity. . . . The American Enemy is a shrewd and deft analysis of French cultural history which unmasks a great many absurdities, past and present.

— Andrew Hussey

Sunday Times
France has often had reason to dislike America  as in the case of Iraq, or in the matter of the economic conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. However, it is the grim achievement of Philippe Roger’s book to demonstrate that France’s lifelong hatred of America does not depend on intermittent justification, but is a self-perpetuating state of mind that meets a vital need in the French psyche. The fact that Roger wrote before the Iraq invasion therefore does not bother his thesis. I began this book believing that the greatness of French civilization was perhaps connected to its self-regard; that the patronising ignorance of the French towards other cultures is a small price to pay for the joy their own civilization has brought to the world. Now I am not so sure. As Professor Roger’s book went on, building its pathology of racism brick by brick, I felt that I was reading not so much the story of a national failing as a universal fable about man’s capacity for self-delusion and the human urge to self-validation through hating others. Francophiles, be warned: this is a deeply dispiriting book.—Sebastian Faulks, Sunday Times 

 

 

— Sebastian Faulks

CHOICE

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title for 2006
History Today
Monumental. . . . A vast but highly readable presentation of every form of French criticism of America. . . . Roger's survey is grand in scope and genial in language.

— D.W. Ellwood

New Republic
Nobody has done as much as Phillipe Roger to lay out these phases of the French animus, or to show how vast has been the literature rehearsing these themes—to demonstrate, in short, that in France such a thing as anti-Americanism does exist and has been expressed in extravagant detail over the centuries.—Paul Berman, The New Republic

— Paul Berman

H-France Reviews
[The] book has many strengths but collapsing the complex web that is French anti-Americanism into a workable theoretical framework may be his greatest contribution. His introduction is probably the smartest and most responsible ten pages ever written on the subject of French anti-Americanism. Anyone at all interested in the subject, or in any aspect of French history, should read it. . . . [His work] is highly readable and accessible, without sacrificing scholarly integrity.

— Seth Armus

Key Reporter
You think you know all about French anti-Americanism? Think again. Better still, read Philippe Roger's elegant The American Enemy.

— Eugen Weber

Times Higher Education Supplement
A feast of a book, cooked a point and served with considerable panache. . . . Roger's sardonic voice is irresistible.

— Alex Danchev

American Historical Review
A brilliant polemic, whose wit and historical digging capture both the persistent and platitudinous qualities embedded in French writing on America. Disturbing, but also intensely amusing, Roger will force his audience to think not only about France, but about the United States, and the legacies that come with massive power.

— Michael Miller

Journal of Modern History
A short review can hardly do justice to the erudition, irony, and wit on display in Roger's 'genealogy' of anti-Americanism. The chronological scope alone is remarkable. . . . One hopes that American readers will see this book not as a means for confirming their own prejudices about France but as a wise guide for thinking about how xenophobias of all kinds travel from one generation to the next.

— Herrick Chapman

The Nation - Stephen Sartarelli

"The American Enemy makes lively reading, due in no small part to the author's energetic, ironic commentary. Roger—a professor at the Sorbonne—has assembled a gallery of all the negative commonplaces, stereotypes and cliches about the United States: bad climate, savage natives, Indian-killers, slavedrivers, robber barons, capitalist fat cats, unlivable cities, soulless scientists, etc. The caricatures are occasionally drawn by some of France's finest pens, and they get our attention. As this culture of complaint builds and ramifies, we witness the birth and development of an intellectual reflex."—Stephen Sartarelli, The Nation
World Policy Journal - Bill Grantham

"Philippe Roger, the author of works ranging from studies of the Enlightenment to Roland Barthes, makes brilliant mischief from the very first words of his "genealogy" of French anti-Americanism. . . . This enlisting of the nexus of love and hate, of slavery to opposing passions, is an exhilarating way of launching a study of attitudes, of liberating the atavism of animosities from the contingencies of events and circumstances. Roger argues that the roots of French anti-Americanism lie in the doubts of Enlightenment science that the New World was a viable one at all."--Bill Grantham, World Policy Journal
New Yorker - Simon Schama

"A brilliant and exhaustive guide to the history of French Ameriphobia."—Simon Schama, New Yorker
Times Literary Supplement - Henri Astier

"Roger concentrates on one country--France--and takes the long, historical view. French anti-Americanism, he shows in The American Enemy, goes back to the eighteenth century. . . . Anti-Americanism goes back a long way, and Philippe Roger does an impressive job of unravelling its various strands and tracing their ancestry."--Henri Astier, Times Literary Supplement
New York Review of Books - Tony Judt

"Philippe Roger has written a superb history of French anti-Americanism, elegant, learned, witty. This enjoyable exercise, in the very best traditions of French scholarship, richly deserves to be published in English translation, unabridged. The book's argument is far too subtle and intricate to summarize briefly, but the word "genealogy" in the title should be taken seriously. . . . In nearly six hundred pages of close textual exegesis, Roger demonstrates not only that the core of French anti-Americanism is very old indeed, but also that it was always fanciful, only loosely attached to American reality."—Tony Judt, New York Review of Books
New York Times - Edward Rothstein

"Mr. Roger almost single-handedly creates a new field of study, tracing the nuances and imagery of anti-Americanism in France over 250 years. He shows that far from being a specific reaction to recent American policies, it has been knit into the very substance of French intellectual and cultural life. . . . His book stuns with its accumulated detail and analysis."--Edward Rothstein, New York Times
Sunday Telegraph (London) - George Walden

"Here is a tasty statistic: when the US went into Iraq a survey showed that America's popularity plunged everywhere--except in France. The French opposed the invasion vehemently, but the country was already so saturated in anti-Americanism that the index scarcely flickered. Which makes Philippe Roger a brave and lonely man. His book is that seemingly impossible thing: an attack on French Americophobia written by a Frenchman. For, as he demonstrates in this scholarly yet highly entertaining work, the French allergy to all things American is a national psychosis which today tells us more about the condition of France than it does about the United States. . . . For all its amusing vignettes, Philippe Roger's message is sober, and a foreword asks an excellent question: how far is the demonising of America, not just in France but the world over, helping to convert a war of words into a more fearsome conflict?"--George Walden, Sunday Telegraph
New Statesman - Andrew Hussey

"The dangers of clumsy translations and cultural misunderstandings are central to the arguments Philippe Roger makes in his timely and wise book. Roger sets out to show that French anti-Americanism has been less a product of genuine antagonism than the result of a series of misunderstandings. To Roger's dismay, these misunderstandings—sometimes wilful, but often based on genuine confusion—have come to play a central role in French identity. . . . The American Enemy is a shrewd and deft analysis of French cultural history which unmasks a great many absurdities, past and present."
Sunday Times - Sebastian Faulks

"France has often had reason to dislike America  as in the case of Iraq, or in the matter of the economic conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. However, it is the grim achievement of Philippe Roger’s book to demonstrate that France’s lifelong hatred of America does not depend on intermittent justification, but is a self-perpetuating state of mind that meets a vital need in the French psyche. The fact that Roger wrote before the Iraq invasion therefore does not bother his thesis. I began this book believing that the greatness of French civilization was perhaps connected to its self-regard; that the patronising ignorance of the French towards other cultures is a small price to pay for the joy their own civilization has brought to the world. Now I am not so sure. As Professor Roger’s book went on, building its pathology of racism brick by brick, I felt that I was reading not so much the story of a national failing as a universal fable about man’s capacity for self-delusion and the human urge to self-validation through hating others. Francophiles, be warned: this is a deeply dispiriting book."--Sebastian Faulks, Sunday Times 

 

 

History Today - D.W. Ellwood

"Monumental. . . . A vast but highly readable presentation of every form of French criticism of America. . . . Roger's survey is grand in scope and genial in language."
New Republic - Paul Berman

"Nobody has done as much as Phillipe Roger to lay out these phases of the French animus, or to show how vast has been the literature rehearsing these themes--to demonstrate, in short, that in France such a thing as anti-Americanism does exist and has been expressed in extravagant detail over the centuries."--Paul Berman, The New Republic
H-France Reviews - Seth Armus

"[The] book has many strengths but collapsing the complex web that is French anti-Americanism into a workable theoretical framework may be his greatest contribution. His introduction is probably the smartest and most responsible ten pages ever written on the subject of French anti-Americanism. Anyone at all interested in the subject, or in any aspect of French history, should read it. . . . [His work] is highly readable and accessible, without sacrificing scholarly integrity."
Key Reporter - Eugen Weber

"You think you know all about French anti-Americanism? Think again. Better still, read Philippe Roger's elegant The American Enemy."
Times Higher Education Supplement - Alex Danchev

"A feast of a book, cooked a point and served with considerable panache. . . . Roger's sardonic voice is irresistible."
American Historical Review - Michael Miller

"A brilliant polemic, whose wit and historical digging capture both the persistent and platitudinous qualities embedded in French writing on America. Disturbing, but also intensely amusing, Roger will force his audience to think not only about France, but about the United States, and the legacies that come with massive power."
Journal of Modern History - Herrick Chapman

"A short review can hardly do justice to the erudition, irony, and wit on display in Roger's 'genealogy' of anti-Americanism. The chronological scope alone is remarkable. . . . One hopes that American readers will see this book not as a means for confirming their own prejudices about France but as a wise guide for thinking about how xenophobias of all kinds travel from one generation to the next."
Publishers Weekly
The surface flippancy of some references to the "freedom fries" kerfuffle during the debate over the war in Iraq masked the long history of antagonism between the U.S. and France. In this fascinating history, noted French historian and cultural critic Roger wittily documents French anti-Americanism from the Enlightenment through McDonald's invasion of French cuisine. Part of Roger's analytic technique is uncovering obscure but intriguing historical information-e.g., early anti-American sentiments were based on the supposedly scientific argument that the Americas were filled with poisonous substances and sickly animals. While such tidbits are entertaining, the book quickly demonstrates how, during the 20th century, France's anti-American attitudes deepened as the U.S. become a world power, overshadowing the traditional European empires. This shift helped create a cultural container for all anti-American feelings including mistrust of Ford's assembly line, moral abhorrence of a growing world economy controlled by the U.S. and distaste for American customs and personalities. The translation is very readable, and though Roger's source texts are often unknown in this country, his arguments are persuasive. The book falters at times because the author is so quick to take exception to all examples of French anti-Americanism that the reader suspects the author dislikes his own country. In spite of this, the book is an important addition to international cultural and political history. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
Roger, a French cultural historian, has written a doubly invaluable book. It is an exhaustive history of a phenomenon that, as he shows, has existed in France since the days of the eighteenth-century philosopher-scientist Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, to the present. And it is written with enough subtlety, complexity, and awareness of how anti-Americanism is an expression of French beliefs, myths, and fears about France to make it quite unnecessary for anyone else to revisit this territory. French writers have seen in the United States the triumph of the inhumanity of machine civilization, the evils of capitalism and exploitation, anonymous and soulless cities — a homogenizing steamroller that crushes human diversity. Many of the authors whom Roger dissects have had considerable influence in France, but many others have not, and he neglects the other half of the story: the profound influence of American literature, social science, and popular culture on France in the second half of the twentieth century, as well as that of French writers (Raymond Aron, for example) who admired the United States. Still, this is a brilliantly instructive book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226723686
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 5/12/2005
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 536
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Philippe Roger is professor at l'École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris, editor-in-chief of Critique, the author of numerous books on French history and culture, and a member of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique. Sharon Bowman was awarded the Prix Amic de Soutien à la Création Littéraire by the Académie Française in 2002.

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Read an Excerpt

The American Enemy

The History of French Anti-Americanism
By Philippe Roger

The University of Chicago Press

Copyright © 2005 the University of Chicago
All right reserved.




Introduction

Great Britain, Germany, Spain, and Italy have all been at war with the United States at one time or another. France has not. Yet as Michel Winock noted not long after the World Trade Center attacks, France is the country where "anti-Americanism has been, and remains, the most strident." This extreme paradox is part of the historical and cultural riddle of French anti-Americanism. Why are the French so anti-American? The question is all the more pertinent because it goes beyond any real or imagined relationship between France and the United States.

The recent crisis in French-American relations, serious as it was (and remains), is just the last, spectacular installment of a long and bizarre story: a century-old war of words. French anti-Americanism is not a recent fever we could use polls to chart, correlating the fluctuations with any given episode of Franco-American relations. Analyzing it as a short-term reaction to specific events or situations has never been a good way of understanding it. In the mid-1980s, pollsters and political analysts proclaimed that anti-American sentiment was in recession and would soon be extinct in France: to hear them talk, French anti-Americanism was on its last legs. Its stereotypes were outmoded, and the general public was warned against falling prey to the other extreme, atriumphant "Americanomania." Even the intellectuals, we were told, had found their "road to Damascus"; a "conversion of the intelligentsia" was described in lavish detail.

Of course the word "conversion" would not have been so out of place if the miracle had really happened. But whether it was real or only imagined, the "clearing up" didn't last. By the turn of the third millennium, the clocks had been reset. Farmers stormed McDonald's. The French government briefly took Coke off the market for public health reasons. "Lite high school" and the Americanization of higher education were publicly reviled. Accusations of "arrogance" and "unilateralism" became the daily bread of the French media again. And in the thick of the Kosovo intervention, the same French citizens who globally approved what NATO was doing in the former Yugoslavia responded to a CSA-Libération poll with more anti-American opinions than ever. France had gotten its wits back, and the intelligentsia, annoyed that a passing lull could ever have been taken for desertion, had retaken its position on the front line. With precious few exceptions, the French intelligentsia's reaction to the events of September 11, 2001, refuted any suspicion of a conversion. Only days after the attacks, the op-ed pages of major French newspapers were filled with the usual America-bashing contributions, which greatly outnumbered the declarations of sympathy or solidarity-with unexpected consequences. Exhibited in such tragic circumstances, the French intelligentsia's rampant anti-American bias backfired for the first time ever, unleashing a yearlong public debate in France on the previously taboo notion of antiaméricanisme. Such was the paradoxical effect of 9/11 in France: it confirmed how deeply rooted anti-Americanism was and, almost simultaneously, paved the way for the first national discussion of the phenomenon. At long last, the French were looking at anti-Americanism without blinking; and what they saw involved France's identity much more than America's.

* * *

French anti-Americanism is a historical construct with deep roots in French culture. If you try to understand it by reading anything into its seasonal varieties, it is bound to slip through your fingers. Developed over and shaped by the long haul, it forces the investigator to plunge into the long haul. It did not start with the Vietnam War or with the cold war-or even in the 1930s, which was its peak. Nearly all the ingredients were there more than a century ago: its narrative structures had largely been formed, its argumentation polished up, and its rhetoric broken in as early as the 1890s. And even more surprisingly, it was already consensual. In a time of strident divisions, it was (already) the most commonly shared idea in France. From then on, it was neither exclusively right wing nor left wing. It brought together spiritualists and secularists, nationalists and internationalists. Favored by the extremes, as might be expected of any "anti" stance, it also permeated the more moderate segments of the population.

Everyone knows how the Statue of Liberty was finished before its pedestal. The statue of the American Enemy raised by the French, however, is a work in progress: each successive generation tinkers at it, tightening its bolts. But its pedestal is well established. And its foundations-the Enlightenment's strange hostility to the New World, which I will examine in the prologue-are over two hundred years old.

The present work stems from the firm belief that it is impossible to unravel the riddle of French anti-Americanism without taking a deep dive into the past. As we have noted and will see in detail, this strange cultural object is just not subject to circumstance. Passing trends have no important or lasting effect on it. Happenstance might have had a role in the early days of its development; we will see this in the case of the Civil War and the Spanish-American War of 1898. Quickly, though, the thick layering of discourses and representations amassed by French anti-Americanism allowed it to absorb exterior shocks without deviating from its flight path. France's anti-American discourse is not solipsistic, but it is largely self-referential and autarchic-two characteristics inseparable from its Sartrian "bad faith." How many incendiary rants and hyperbolic indictments of the United States are backed up and fueled by the reassuring and inadmissible thought that "nothing is really at stake here"? Clearly, that is just one more illusion or self-deception-and not the least dangerous, considering how, to give one example, such thinking helped hone France's diplomatic, economic, and moral isolation in the 1930s; or, more recently, how otherwise perfectly legitimate political and diplomatic differences could easily evolve into an all-out confrontation, by triggering anti-Americanism again and again and setting off the infernal machine of a nearly Pavlovian hostility.

Where does all this come from? Semiotics generally has a hard time defining the exact critical moment when "it takes," as Barthes put it; when a discourse takes on a certain consistency; when it can run on its own obtuseness. In France, anti-Americanism attracts a strong adherence by being a narrative, and this adherence need not necessarily be linked to any felt animosity-whence the honest protestation of those who, after spouting typical anti-American clichés, deny any ill-will toward the Americans. A discourse of this kind works through repetition. Its strength is in its stubbornness. Its peaks can of course be charted (by opinion polls, for instance), but its most important element is elsewhere: in a long, drawn-out stratification of images, legends, jokes, anecdotes, beliefs, and affects. Shedding light on all of these elements takes more than just opinion polls (which, rather than plumbing the depths, offer a snapshot of a given moment): you have to root around, dig up old deposits, excavate the matter, clear out the veins, and follow the seams.

* * *

"I'm not anti-American. I don't even know what the word means," declared Sartre in 1946. His logic would have delighted Lewis Carroll-not to mention the Mad Hatter. The same logic still is running the show in current attempts to obstruct the concept of anti-Americanism. In fact, since Sartre's day, the hard line has only gotten harder. Anti-Americanism was an incomprehensible word for him-or comprehensible just long enough to absolve himself of it. Antiaméricanisme has been regularly described in France as "one word too many," whose use is "not innocent" and which needs to be eradicated, a machination contrived by "rabid &lsquophilo-Americans,'" a semantic plot concocted by the Yankee fifth column. As the French essayist Serge Halimi discovered and exposed in Le Monde diplomatique in May 2000, individuals with ulterior motives are hiding behind this empty word, and their mission is to "intimidate the last rebels against a social order whose laboratory is the United States." Anti-Americanism? Never heard of it. Except as a fabrication, pure and simple. Since Sartre's day, this denial has been the obligatory preamble to any use of anti-American rhetoric. Halimi's article is only a typical example of a widespread rhetorical device: everything in it works by mirror image, from the accusation of intimidation, introduced to justify censorship of the undesirable word, to the imputation that the opponent uses a "tightly screwed-together binary logic" (this masks the Manichean political views of the accusation itself). The semantic objection is there only to set the polemical machine in motion.

* * *

Now for a more methodological objection. Even if we admit that anti-Americanism exists and that its manifestations can be pinpointed, does that give us the right to turn it into an analytical category? Given that "anti-Americanism" is part of the French "logosphere" and might even determine a certain number of attitudes and behaviors, does that mean we can raise it to the level of a concept? Doesn't that-wrongly-lend credence to the idea that America has an "essence" to which anti-Americans would thus be opposed? We cannot address this objection without quickly examining the link it presupposes between "Americanism" and "anti-Americanism."

At the end of the nineteenth century, Americanism meant, in the United States, a set of values judged to be constituent parts of a national identity, as well as the attitude of those who adopted them and attempted to conform their personal identity to this national ideal. The expression, popularized by Theodore Roosevelt at the turn of the twentieth century, was inseparable from notions like being "100 percent American"-as opposed to "hyphenated American." Its intent is clear. Its content, however, is vague, as Marie-France Toinet notes, quoting Theodore Roosevelt: "Americanism signifies the virtues of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity, and strength-the virtues that made America." Glorified and reinforced in the 1920s by a boom in prosperity, Americanism began to expand beyond the realm of innate virtues to encompass a certain number of traits characteristic of American "civilization," not of the American man: efficiency, productivity, access to material goods. Americanism's credo, though it kept its nationalist and even chauvinistic overtones, was thus coupled with another self-defining tautology: the American way of life, which was the material facet of the word "Americanism." The key element here is that, since it came out of the need to affirm an uneasy national cohesion through the emotional and intellectual adherence of each citizen to an "idea of America" as broad as it was vague, "Americanism" never attained the status of a political or ideological doctrine.

A narcissistic self-portrait and a slogan for internal use, "Americanism" would seem to be hard to export: yet America's power overflow pushed the term all the way across the ocean to Europe. The French discovered it in the full upswing of a new (polemic) interest in the United States in the late 1920s. But their attempts to give it ideological or political substance bumped up against resistant matter: "Americanism" means above all pride in being American; apart from that, it is a catch-all. So, logically enough, the French took the word over and gave it a meaning, most often negative, that reflected their own view of the United States. David Strauss, in his book on French anti-Americanism in the 1920s, rightly notes that in French, américanisme means "the cultural values and institutions which were believed by Frenchmen to be an integral part of American civilization." Only Sartre, just after the war, would attempt to translate "Americanism" culturally: not by giving it a meaning it does not have, but by analyzing it as the psychological key to the way Americans are socialized. But his was a very personal attempt, and it had no effect on the fate of a term decidedly destined for invective in France. Régis Debray neatly summed up the semantic situation of the word in a book written in 1992. After giving a long catalog of its negative connotations, Debray concludes: "Americanism seems to mean a blackened America, stripped of everything positive it has." At the end of its ambiguous career, américanisme has wound up denoting nothing more than a repertoire of anti-American clichés about America.

Now we can come back and respond to the initial objection about essentializing America. The mistake there was imagining that anti-Americanism was derived from the notion of "Americanism." In fact, the false antonym has nothing to do with it, either historically or logically. As Sartre could have put it, in France, anti-Americanism's existence always preceded any essence of America.

* * *

One last scruple: our investigation covers two centuries. It might seem problematic, then, that the word anti-Americanism is so much more recent. Can we trace the genealogy of a nameless notion?

First we have to clear up the chronology. The word made a late entrance into the French dictionaries (1968 for the Petit Robert). But as we all know, dictionaries always lag behind usage. The first use of the term "anti-Americanism" catalogued by lexicographers dates back to 1948; by the early 1950s, it was a part of ordinary political language. And it would not be going out on a limb to suggest that the term spread as a counterpoint to "anti-Sovietism." Its entry into the French lexicon seems to have been a direct consequence of the cold war.

As for the epistemological root of the question, we can look to one of the pioneers of semantics applied to cultural history, Reinhart Koselleck, for help with that one. Koselleck warns against falling prey to a "new nominalism," which would have us believe that the emergence of a notion or a category of thought is dependent on the creation of the term designating it. "It is not necessary for persistence and change in the meanings of words to correspond with persistence and change in the structures they specify," writes Koselleck; "words which persist are in themselves insufficient indicators of stable contents and, ... vice versa, contents undergoing long-term change might be expressed in a number of very different ways." The invitation is clear and the voice authoritative. It would be reductive to use lexicographical indications to limit the field of investigation on concepts or behaviors. There is indisputably in France, as of the late nineteenth century, an as-yet-unnamed anti-Americanism. (A name for it would probably have taken some form of "Yankism" or "Yankeeism" at the time.) The lesson we can draw from dictionaries is elsewhere: they usefully remind us that "anti-Americanism" is the only noun in French with the prefix "anti-" based on the name of a country. That this strange word finally emerged and became common coinage (and now seems to be impossible to get rid of) is in itself a sign of exceptional treatment, if not favoritism.

* * *

A genealogy of French anti-Americanism-what exactly does that mean? First, that anti-Americanism will be considered here as a long war of words (and images) that France has been waging against the United States, and whose argumentative logic it is our task to untangle. We will therefore keep to the disagreeable side of Franco-American relations, where the punches are thrown and the low blows dealt. We will hang out dirty laundry that has never seen the end of the wash. We'll also follow the anti-American discourse into its weakest patches, where it runs in little rivulets, far from the torrential roar of invective. That is, we will track it back to the place where it flows from the source.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The American Enemy by Philippe Roger Copyright © 2005 by the University of Chicago . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

1 The age of contempt 33
2 The divided states of America 65
3 Lady Liberty and the iconoclasts 97
4 From Havana to Manila : an American world? 129
5 Yankees and Anglo-Saxons 157
6 Portraits of races 177
7 "People of enemy blood" 203
8 The empire of trusts : socialism or feudalism? 219
9 The other Maginot Line 257
10 Facing the decline : Gallic hideout or European buffer zone? 277
11 From debt to dependency : the Perrichon complex 301
12 Metropolis, cosmopolis : in defense of Frenchness 339
13 Defense of man : anti-Americanism is a humanism 373
14 Insurrection of the mind, struggle for culture, defense of the intelligentsia 411
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