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In Uncouth Nation, Andrei Markovits provides deep insights into anti-Americanism in Europe today and delves into many of the facets that make the American-European relationship so unique. This book should be read and discussed!"--Joschka Fischer, former Foreign Minister of Germany; and Professor, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University
"Anti-Americanism is as old as the Republic--a historical constant, which is only remotely related to specific American behavior. So what is new? Andrei Markovits has delivered the best answer yet, ranging across an astounding wealth of material from politics and culture. Uncouth Nation is a rare academic treat. Rigorous and analytical, the book is also a pleasure to read as it penetrates a critical issue of our time."--Josef Joffe, Publisher and Editor of Die Zeit, and Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University
"Andrei Markovits does three things in this excellent book: he provides an account of the historical and contemporary forms of European anti-Americanism (and of its close relative, anti-Semitism); he analyzes the roots and causes of this phenomenon; and, best of all, he gives us a running critique of the frequent silliness and malice of the anti-Americans and of their role in fashioning a certain kind, which is not the best possible kind, of pan-European politics."--Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study
"For many years now, Andrei Markovits has been North America's most insightful analyst of European political culture. In Uncouth Nation he has written a near-masterpiece. On page after page, Markovits convincingly demonstrates the all-consuming nature of European anti-Americanism. He shows that, in an era where European collective identity remains in tenuous flux, anti-Americanism has become a mainstay of ersatz ideological cohesion. In a classical instance of ressentiment, Europeans deride America not so much for what it does but because of what it is-an orientation that often says more about contemporary Europe than about its despised trans-Atlantic rival. Uncouth Nation is lucidly argued and mellifluously written. Markovits has provided us with a landmark study in political pathology."--Richard Wolin, Graduate Center, City University of New York author of The Seduction of Unreason
"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."--Ira Katznelson, author of When Affirmative Action Was White
"Recent events, from September 11 to the Iraq war to repeated acts of terrorism, have given new vigor to the debate on anti-Americanism. Uncouth Nation contributes significantly to the debate. Its author, who is deeply familiar with both the European and American literature on the subject, has clearly thought a great deal about anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism in his quest to make sense of each as well as to determine how they interact."--Ezra Suleiman, Princeton University, author of Dismantling Democratic States
"Andrei Markovits, with a mix of analytical clarity, historical perspective, and years of personal experience as one of our most informed observers of European politics, offers a challenging, disquieting yet certainly important analysis of views that have entered the continent's political mainstream. While many think or hope that the hostility of recent years is primarily a short-term reaction to the policies of George W. Bush, Markovits makes a compelling case that longer-term currents are at work. Uncouth Nation should be read by policymakers, scholars, and citizens who seek a deeper understanding of recent tensions and prospects for trans-Atlantic relations and for Europe's future."--Jeffrey Herf, University of Maryland, author of The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust
"Andrei S. Markovitz unveils . . . the huge misconception, implied or actually believed around the world, that anti-Americanism is something new. He uses a subtle example to demonstrate that it is the opposite: a malignant growth as old as the hills."--Bogdan Kipling, Chronicle Herald
"Andrei S. Markovits sensibly distinguishes between disapproval of the United States for what it does and dislike of the United States for what it is. . . . In a fascinating twist, Markovits highlights the gradual transformation of European anti-Americanism after the Second World War from an ideology of the discredited right to one of the anti-imperialist left. . . . The book offers a great deal of convincing evidence for these assertions, some of it based on survey research, but most of it based on Markovits's deep familiarity with Europe's left-wing scene."--Jeffrey Kopstein, The Globe and Mail
"Markovits documents his arguments extensively, and though he makes his leftist leanings clear, his research convinces him that anti-Americanism isn't about policy but about essence, which precedes it."--Library Journal
"Markovits performs a valuable service. If you wonder where the U.S.-European relationship is heading, Uncouth Nation is a book well-worth reading."--Sasha Abramsky, American Prospect
"The resentment of the United States, [Markovits] shows, has spread far beyond politics, penetrating deep into the pores of everyday European life. . . . In an argument Democrats in particular need to hear, Markovits concludes soberly that European hostility is unlikely to be substantially abated in a post-Bush America because Europe's animosities will remain central to both combating globalization and creating a European identity. Until now, European anti-Americanism has not had widespread consequences. As a practical matter, Europeans have needed to compartmentalize their feelings. But that can change."--Fred Siegel, Blueprint Magazine
"Markovits's analysis and discussion of post-1991 and particularly post-9/11 European anti-Americanism is convincing and disturbing. . . . Uncouth Nation admirably fulfills the mandate of the new Public Square series published by Princeton University Press, which produces scholarly political books that are intended to foster public discussion and debate."--Diane N. Labrosse, Montreal Gazette
"The point underlying this rich and sophisticated book is exactly that, like all other anti-isms, European anti-Americanism reflects a set of prejudices that have more to do with Europe's own problems than with America's.... It is...an invitation to Europe to look more deeply into itself in order to build on solid foundations that new European identity that European elites and masses alike rightly seem so impatient to give birth to... [T]he arguments of the book...should be read and appreciated."--Emiliano Alessandri, International Spectator
"Markovits' stellar, finely researched and written account will take its place in the emergent canon of important works by other prominent intellectuals on the phenomenon of anti-Americanism. . . . Markovits deserves praise and support for daring to take on the topic of anti-Americanism, for challenging the orthodoxy of anti-Americanism and exposing its irrationality, cultural essentialism, and raw reductionisms. . . . The real value of Markovits' book lies . . . in its appeal to thinking and reflective people who have generally considered themselves left of center, but who no longer wish to hide their own prejudices. biases, and hypocrisy from themselves."--Thomas Cushman, Democratiya
"The point underlying this rich and sophisticated book is . . . that, like all other anti-isms, European anti- Americanism reflects a set of prejudices that have more to do with Europe's own problems than with America's. . . . The arguments of the book have been made and should be read and appreciated."--Emiliano Alessandri, International Spectator
British novelist Margaret Drabble once wrote: "My anti-Americanism has become almost uncontrollable--ris[ing] in my throat like acid reflux." What possesses an otherwise sensible and sensitive writer to utter such an inanity? Markovits (comparative politics & German studies, Univ. of Michigan; Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism) notes that "overt hostilities in language and attitude that have remained taboo against any other culture or country among European intellectuals and elites have attained respectability when it concerns America." Europeans have derogated America since its inception, but anti-Americanism escalated in the 1980s (before George W. Bush) and is now a permanent part of political discourse on both the Right and the Left. According to Markovits, anti-American sentiment is primarily about what we are (e.g., crass, materialistic, licentious yet prudish), not about what we do; current foreign policy has merely added fuel to flames that were already alight. Markovits further argues that anti-Israeli sentiment displays the same tropes as does anti-Americanism, with anti-Semitism (unacceptable in civil discourse since Auschwitz) reemerging as anti-Zionism and Israel linked with Nazism. Markovits documents his arguments extensively, and though he makes his leftist leanings clear, his research convinces him that anti-Americanism isn't about policy but about essence, which precedes it. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.
Anti-Americanism: What America Is vs. What America Does
Anti-Americanism is a particularly murky concept because it invariably merges antipathy toward what America does with what America is-or rather is projected to be in the eyes of its beholders. The difference between "does" and "is" corresponds well with Jon Elster's distinction between "anger" and "hatred." Elster writes: "In anger, my hostility is directed toward another's action and can be extinguished by getting even-an action that reestablishes the equilibrium. In hatred, my hostility is directed toward another person or a category of individuals [Americans and/or Jews/Israelis in the case of this study, A.M.] who are seen as intrinsically and irremediably bad. For the world to be made whole, they have to disappear." But even in hatred one needs to draw a difference between "I hate what you do" and "I hate you." Joseph Joffe aptly differentiated between these two concepts in a lecture on anti-Americanism at Stanford University: "To attack particular policies-say, the refusal to sign on to Kyoto, the Complete Test Ban or the Landmine Ban-is not anti-American. These issues are amenable to rational discourse. ... To argue that the U.S. defied international law by going to war against Iraq may be true or false. It is certainly not anti-American."
What, then, is the "real thing," the real anti-Americanism? In his analysis, Joffe groups anti-Americanism with other forms of "anti-isms" that-for him-must satisfy the following five conditions:
1. Stereotypization (that is, statements of the type: "This is what they are all like.") 2. Denigration (the ascription of a collective moral or cultural inferiority to the target group) 3. Omnipotence (e.g., "They control the media, the economy, the world.") 4. Conspiracy (e.g., "This is what they want to do to us surreptitiously and stealthily-sully our racial purity, destroy our traditional, better, and morally superior ways.") 5. Obsession (a constant preoccupation with the perceived and feared evil and powerful ways of the hated group)
Moreover, like all anti-isms, anti-Americanism constitutes "a ballet of shifting grounds and unfalsifiable denigrations whose main function, one must conclude, is to establish moral and cultural superiority vis-à-vis the Yahoos of America. In other words, it is not the facts that create the anti-ism, but anti-ism that creates and selects its own facts."
Thus, anti-Americanism has characteristics like any other prejudice in that its holder "prejudges" the object and its activities apart from what transpires in reality. Here I avail myself of Paul Sniderman's pioneering work on prejudice. In a number of major studies, Sniderman and his colleagues demonstrate that prejudice has the following minimal characteristics:
judging an individual not by her or his personal qualities but in reaction to her or his group membership, which is invariably seen in a pejorative light; seeing prejudice not as something "archaic" and retrograde but indeed as a social ordering that exists among all groups and social strata in allegedly modern and tolerant societies; the almost innate preference for those that are like us, even in the flimsiest way, as opposed to those that are not, a clear in-group preference over any out-group; and the formation of stereotypes, which, far from simplemindedness, irrationality, and retrograde thinking, has an important ordering function and thus seems to be ubiquitous.
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 on the dimension of power. Jews, gays and lesbians, women, and ethnic minorities rarely if ever have any actual power in and over the majority populations or 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 ninteenth century and which has, according to many scholarly analysts and now as a commonplace, become unparalleled in human history with the passing of the Cold War in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Because of this unique paradox, the separation between what America is-i.e., its way of life, its symbols, products, people-and what America does-its foreign policy writ large-will forever be jumbled and impossible to disentangle. Indeed, I see as one of this book's main tasks-particularly through the "nonpolitical" examples assembled in chapter 3-to approximate just such a disentanglement as best one can.
While other public prejudices, particularly against the weak, have-in a fine testimony to progress and tolerance over the past forty years-become largely illegitimate in the public discourse of most advanced industrial democracies (the massive change in the accepted language about-and thus the legitimate behavior toward-women, gays, the physically challenged, minorities of all kinds, and animals, to name but a few, over the past three decades in the discourse of advanced industrial societies 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, indeed a badge of honor, and perhaps one of the most distinct icons of what it means to be a progressive these days precisely because it is directed against something that by no stretch of the imagination can be construed as weak. Therefore, by being anti-American, paradoxically, one adheres to a prejudice that, ipso facto, seems to confer on its bearer the stamp not of intolerance but of legitimate resister and opponent against a truly powerful force in the world. Power and its perception play-as I shall argue in this book-a parallel and highly related role as to how Jews and Israel fare in the world of accepted public opinion: While classic anti-Semitism still remains by and large illegitimate in the discourse of advanced industrial democracies because it constructs Jews as weak and victims, the position against Israel can be legitimately fraught with an unlimited number of invectives because Israel is perceived as a powerful agent victimizing Palestinians, who-not by chance-are often perceived as assuming the role of the Jews to Israel's status as the new Nazis. Anti-Americanism, like any other prejudice, is an acquired set of beliefs, an attitude, an ideology, not an ascribed trait. Thus, it is completely independent of the national origins of its particular holder. Indeed, many Americans can be-and are-anti-American, just as Jews can be-and are-anti-Semitic, blacks can-and do-hold racist views, and women misogynist ones.
The reason I am mentioning this is that often the very existence of anti-Americanism is denied by dint of Americans also adhering to such positions. It is not a matter of the holder's citizenship or birthplace that ought to be the appropriate criterion but rather her/ his set of acquired beliefs about a particular collective. Indeed, as Linda Gordon and Andrew Ross argue, anti-Americanism became-often for understandable and justifiable reasons, though mostly flawed in substance and form-an integral part of the American Left's discourse and world view. But here, too, context means everything. Delighting in Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine or Fahrenheit 9/11 in an artsy movie theater in Ann Arbor, Madison, Cambridge, or Berkeley is a completely different experience and has a vastly different meaning from having Michael Moore mutate into a veritable folk hero in Germany and much of Western Europe. To the West European public, Moore has become a convenient shill for voicing one's resentment toward America loudly and uninhibitedly since-after all-if Moore as a quintessential American, baseball cap and all, says all these derogatory things about Americans, so can Europeans without being accused of harboring anti-American sentiments. Europeans delight in Moore regardless of whether he expresses justified criticisms of deplorable aspects of American politics and society or whether he sinks to the level of the crudest anti-Americanism imaginable, as he did, for example, during a lecture in Munich where he proclaimed to an audience roaring with jubilant laughter that Americans are stupid: "That's why we're smiling all the time. You can see us coming down the street. You know, 'Hey! Hi! How's it going?' We've got that big [expletive] grin on our face all the time because our brains aren't loaded down." To the English paper The Mirror, Moore proclaimed triumphantly that Americans "are possibly the dumbest people on the planet ... in thrall to conniving, thieving smug [pieces of the human anatomy]." Statements like these, just a few of the many Moore has uttered, have nothing to do with justified criticism of policies but are merely expressions of injurious and demeaning prejudices. In the two mentioned here, Moore addresses two standard elements of traditional European anti-Americanism: first, the amicableness of Americans that always strikes Europeans as phony, superficial, and inauthentic; and second, Americans' purported stupidity and simple-mindedness.
Moore's language fuels such enthusiastic approval in Europe because-on the one hand-it now seems legitimate, even laudable and progressive, to express prejudices and derogatory views concerning Americans publicly in a way that one may no longer do precisely because advances in the discourse and demeanor of tolerance over the past forty years have made the expressions of similar derogatory sentiments regarding other nationalities unacceptable; and because-on the other hand-these negative tropes are magnified and fortified by several degrees by Moore's being so quintessentially American. With the exception of the British yellow press and the stands of European soccer stadiums, public expressions of humiliation like these are no longer acceptable in today's Europe. In this context, a German friend quite correctly told me the following: "It would be unthinkable for books like Stupid White Men to hold leading positions for months at the top of Germany's best-seller list if these stupid white men were anybody but Americans, say if they were Italians, Frenchmen, or Brits, let alone Germans. No German author would ever dream of publishing an equivalent book on Germans, and if he or she did, the book would surely not catapult to the top of the charts as it has in Moore's case." Racist lyrics by rappers do not become less racist by virtue of their being articulated by African American artists, but their very quality changes completely when the same lyrics are uttered by whites. Few people have a more deprecating sense of humor than Jews. Yet it makes a whale of a difference whether the jokester is Jewish or not. The content defines, but the context lends meaning.
The German proverb "Der Ton macht die Musik" (the tone makes the music) informs this study since it captures the important insight that form matters at least as much as substance, indeed that form is often the same as substance. Accordingly, this study is as much about the "how" as it is about the "what." In particular, it holds that a steady-and growing-resentment of the United States (indeed, of most things American) has permeated European discourse and opinion since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and thus the end of the bipolar Cold War world that dominated Europe since 1945. However, it also argues that the manifest nature of this antipathy hails from a very long and fertile history, and that it is only superficially related to the dislike of George W. Bush and his administrations' policies. The latter have merely served as convenient caricatures for a much deeper structural disconnect between Europe as an emerging political entity and a new global player, on the one hand, and the United States, its main, perhaps only, genuine rival, on the other. Anti-Americanism in Europe long preceded George W. Bush and will persist long after his departure.
Anti-Americanism: Some Definitions
Lest there be any misunderstandings or conceptual uncertainties as to what exactly I mean by anti-Americanism, here is the definition offered by Paul Hollander:
Anti-Americanism is a predisposition to hostility toward the United States and American society, a relentless critical impulse toward American social, economic, and political institutions, traditions, and values; it entails an aversion to American culture in particular and its influence abroad, often also contempt for the American national character (or what is presumed to be such a character) and dislike of American people, manners, behavior, dress, and so on; rejection of American foreign policy and a firm belief in the malignity of American influence and presence anywhere in the world.
Excerpted from UNCOUTH NATION by Andrei S. Markovits Copyright © 2007 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
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