No survey can capture the breadth and depth of the anti-Americanism that has swept Europe in recent years. From ultraconservative Bavarian grandmothers to thirty-year-old socialist activists in Greece, from globalization opponents to corporate executives--Europeans are joining in an ever louder chorus of disdain for America. For the first time, anti-Americanism has become a European lingua franca.
In this sweeping and provocative look at the history of European aversion to America, Andrei Markovits argues that understanding the ubiquity of anti-Americanism since September 11, 2001, requires an appreciation of such sentiments among European elites going back at least to July 4, 1776.
While George W. Bush's policies have catapulted anti-Americanism into overdrive, particularly in Western Europe, Markovits argues that this loathing has long been driven not by what America does, but by what it is. Focusing on seven Western European countries big and small, he shows how antipathies toward things American embrace aspects of everyday life--such as sports, language, work, education, media, health, and law--that remain far from the purview of the Bush administration's policies. Aggravating Europeans' antipathies toward America is their alleged helplessness in the face of an Americanization that they view as inexorably befalling them.
More troubling, Markovits argues, is that this anti-Americanism has cultivated a new strain of anti-Semitism. Above all, he shows that while Europeans are far apart in terms of their everyday lives and shared experiences, their not being American provides them with a powerful common identity--one that elites have already begun to harness in their quest to construct a unified Europe to rival America.
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.-David Keymer, Modesto, CA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
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Princeton University Press
January 01, 2007
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Excerpt from Uncouth Nation by Andrei S. Markovits
Any trip to Europe confirms what the surveys have been finding: The aversion to America is becoming greater, louder, more determined.1 It is unifying West Europeans more than any other political emotion--with the exception of a common hostility toward Israel. In today's West 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. They constitute common fare among West 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 this reality.
There can be no doubt that many disastrous and irresponsible policies by the Bush administrations, 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. George W. Bush and his administrations' policies have made America into the most hated country of all time. 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 solely 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. "There has probably never been a time when America was held in such low esteem on this side of the Atlantic" wrote the distinguished British Political Scientist Anthony King in The Daily Telegraph on July 3, 2006, summarizing a survey that revealed a new nadir in the British view of America. No West European country is exempt from this phenomenon--not a single social class, no age group or profession, nor either gender. But this aversion and antipathy reaches much deeper and wider than the frequently evoked "anti-Bushism." Indeed, I perceive this virulent, Europe-wide, and global "anti-Bushism" as the glaring tip of a massive anti-American iceberg.
Anti-Americanism has been promoted to the status of West 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 West 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 in almost all European countries who expressed appreciation and understanding. In France, arguably Europe's leader over the past fifteen years in most matters related to antipathy toward America, the prospect of stationing American 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. This distinguished the French Left, arguably among the most ardently anti-American protagonists anywhere in contemporary Europe, from all of its European counterparts. That America's image was far from hunky dory in the Europe of the mid-1980s but still far exceeded its nadir reached since 9/11 and the Iraq War is attested to by the following passage from a Pew Survey:
The numbers paint a depressing picture. Just a quarter of the French approve of U.S. policies, and the situation is only slightly better in Japan and Germany. Majorities in many countries say America's strong military presence actually increases the chances for war. And most people believe America's global influence is expanding. The latest survey on America's tarnished global image? No, those numbers come from a poll conducted by Newsweek . . . in 1983. The United States has been down this road before, struggling with a battered image and drawing little in the way of support even from close allies. But for a variety of reasons, this time it is different: the anti-Americanism runs broader and deeper than ever before. And it's getting worse.2
To be sure, as this study will be careful to delineate, opposition to U.S. policies in no way connotes anti-Americanism. But even in the allegedly halcyon days of pre-1990 West European-American relations, a palpable antipathy to things American on the part of European elites accompanied opposition to policies.