Anti-Americanism as the disease of Europe

James Ceasar (yes, that’s the way he spells it) has a lengthy article in The Public Interest about European anti-Americanism. Paraphrasing Jean François Revel, he notes that without anti-Americanism, nothing remains of European political thought today, either on the Left or on the Right. This anti-Americanism, derived from the writings of the pro-Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger, says that America represents the principle of quantity without quality, a blind dumb massifying force that is crushing culture. The problem is not that the anti-Americanism may not contain elements of truth, but that it is bigotry, and of an especially poisonous kind. Ceasar’s analysis is therefore highly relevant to other kinds of contemporary bigotry we have discussed at VFR, as well as to anti-Americanism itself:

There is a great need today for both Europeans and Americans to understand the career of this powerful doctrine of anti-Americanism. As long as its influence remains, rational discussion of the practical differences between America and Europe becomes more and more difficult. No issue or question is addressed on its merits, and instead commentators tend to reason from conclusions to facts rather than from facts to conclusions. Arguments, no matter how reasonable they appear on the surface, are advanced to promote or confirm the pre-existing concept of America constructed by Heidegger and others. In the past, European political leaders had powerful reasons to resist this approach. Such practical concerns as alliances, the personal ties and contacts forged with American officials, commercial relations, and a fear of communism worked to dampen anti-Americanism. But of late, European leaders have been tempted to use anti-Americanism as an easy way to court favor with parts of the public, especially with intellectual and media elites. This has unfortunately added a new level of legitimacy to the anti-American mindset.

Not only does anti-Americanism make rational discussion impossible, it threatens the idea of a community of interests between Europe and America. Indeed, it threatens the idea of the West itself. According to the most developed views of anti-Americanism, there is no community of interests between the two sides of the Atlantic because America is a different and alien place. … [P]roponents invest differences that exist between Europe and America with a level of significance all out of proportion with their real weight. True, Europeans spend more on the welfare state than do Americans, and Europeans have eliminated capital punishment while many American states still employ it. But to listen to the way in which these facts are discussed, one would think that they add up to different civilizations. This kind of analysis goes so far as to place in question even the commonality of democracy. Since democracy is now unquestionably regarded as a good thing—never mind, of course, that such an attachment to democracy arguably constitutes the most fundamental instance of Americanization—America cannot be a real democracy. And so it is said that American capitalism makes a mockery of the idea of equality, or that low rates of voting participation disqualify America from being in the camp of democratic states.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 07, 2003 09:39 AM | Send

This is all to the good, in my opinion. The last thing any American should want to be is like the Europeans. We escaped from them for a reason.

However, these days it’s lockstep conservative dogma that somehow our fate and that of the Europeans should be entwined. That may have been to some degree true in the days of the old US-Soviet confrontation, but those days are over now and in some ways modern western Europe is shaping up to be a foe in its own way as insidious and destructive as the 20th century Communists ever were. (I’m not predicting right now; I’m just saying there are signs pointing in that direction…)

Let the Euros be anti-American and the Amers anti-European. We will be much better off for it.

Posted by: Bubba on July 7, 2003 9:46 PM

It’s true the Europeans are our adversaries now and ought to be regarded as such. However, I don’t think we should wash off Europe and say it doesn’t matter anymore. That would be to give up on any hope of reviving our common faith, peoplehood, and civilization.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on July 7, 2003 10:04 PM
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