Guide Americanism: New Perspectives on the History of an Ideal

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Almost every essay examines a familiar dimension of Americanism in a nuanced and original way, which effects a renewed appreciation of the complexity of Americanism as both a subject of scholarly inquiry and a facet of our daily lives. A gem of a collection!

Sanchez, University of Southern California This admirable collection, full of surprises, enriches a necessary debate by complicating the conventional notion that Americanism belongs to the benighted. Highly recommended.

Americanism: New Perspectives on the History of an Ideal / Edition 1

They are provocative in the best sense of the word. They have brought together an outstanding and diverse group of writers, mostly but not exclusively historians, to address the claims of Americanism. Successfully opens the discussion of a critical aspect of US history and contemporary life. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Textbooks. Add to Wishlist.

USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Temporarily Out of Stock Online Please check back later for updated availability. Overview What is Americanism? The contributors to this volume recognize Americanism in all its complexity-as an ideology, an articulation of the nation's rightful place in the world, a set of traditions, a political language, and a cultural style imbued with political meaning.

ISBN 13: 9780807858974

In response to the pervasive vision of Americanism as a battle cry or a smug assumption, this collection of essays stirs up new questions and debates that challenge us to rethink the model currently being exported, too often by force, to the rest of the world. The pattern long typical for France has now become common throughout Western Europe.

Elites have become more negative toward the United States than the general public, and younger people are more critical than their elders. Elites in search of legitimacy and a new generation looking for a cause are the two most visible faces of the new European anti-Americanism.

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Hence, understanding the split within the EU over U. A re-examination of the controversy over the Iraq war helps to reveal that both the new anti-Americanism in Western Europe and the anti-anti-Americanism of the new democracies in central and eastern Europe have almost nothing to do with Iraq and very little to do with America. But good politics does not always make for sound explanations. The only problem with this analysis is that it is not supported by the polls. Public opinion surveys indicated that there was a strong anti-war majority 70 to 75 percent in all the post-communist countries.

The conservative reading of events was equally wrong with respect to the motivations of east European elites. In their view, the conspicuous loyalty that these governments demonstrated toward the United States was not much different from the loyalty that they used to display toward the Soviet union in the days of the cold War. Far from a commitment to freedom, it was the instinct of the vassal whose behavior is motivated by carrots and sticks that explained the course taken by East European governments. This interpretation is also difficult to justify. In terms of power politics, France and Germany, with the European commission behind them, were both able to wield bigger sticks and offer bigger carrots to the east European countries than was the United States.

The real difference between Poland and France was their differing judgments about the advantages and risks attendant upon encouraging anti-American sentiments. Paris looked at the rise of anti-Americanism and saw an opportunity for increasing French influence in the world.

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Warsaw looked at the same phenomenon and saw a threat to all its hard-won gains from a decade of arduous political and economic reforms. For new Europe, by contrast, flirting with anti-Americanism was not simply in bad taste, it was politically dangerous. Post-communist governments have important domestic political reasons for worrying about the rise of anti-Americanism.

The democratic and market changes that Eastern Europe experienced over the past decade came wrapped in the American flag. When democracy came to Eastern Europe, it was singing in English, it was in love with the U. For the reformist elites in post-communist countries, attacks on America appeared politically and not just symbolically subversive. In the imagination of the generation in the east, however, America was the symbol of democracy and the free world. When German student leader Rudi Dutschke went on a solidarity tour in to Prague to ask Czech students to join in a common struggle against capitalist democracy and the dictatorship of the market, Czech students told him that this was exactly what they were struggling for.

This difference in the socialization of many of the political and cultural elites now in power in Europe led to their divergent reactions to the rise of anti-Americanism during the Iraq crisis. Both Berlin and Warsaw remained loyal to the legacy of , but it is a legacy that divides east and West. Those parts of the public that are favorable to the United States are also the most pro-democratic and the most favorable toward the EU.

The Anti-American Century

In the Balkans, in contrast to Western Europe, it is the younger, better-educated, and more active part of the population that most often expresses positive attitudes toward the United States. Today many east European politicians and intellectuals side with America because they understand that, in the local context, the fashion for blaming America opens the door to attacks on democracy and the market. The power of anti-Americanism lies in its very emptiness. For the old communist elites in countries like Bulgaria, the new political correctness of anti-Americanism offers a way to reinsert themselves into the democratic political landscape on their own terms.

For this new New Old Left, blaming America is a strategy for pitting democracy against capitalism.


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For some corrupt post-communist governments, anti-Americanism is an instrument for redirecting public anger. For disillusioned publics, anti-Americanism is a vehicle for expressing anger at their betrayal by the elites. When winning the protest vote is the name of the game, anti-Americanism is the favorite tactic. Some political circles in Washington flirt with the idea of using new Europe as an instrument for dividing and weakening the EU with respect to foreign and security policy.

Such a strategy would be based on dangerously unrealistic assumptions. For east Europeans, backing the united States during the Iraq crisis was a triumph of history over geography. But history itself teaches us that geography is stronger in the long run. For neo-Gaullists and die-hard social democrats, Europe is the center of a new world that will confront America in the same way that the old new World had confronted monarchical Europe in the eighteenth century. In their view, anti-Americanism should be the common European political language.

United Europe needs a positive identity. All three of them flourish at the end of history, when no universal alternative to democracy and the market is in play, but disappointment with democracy and the market is growing. Today democracy may often be redefined or distorted but it is not openly opposed. Anti-market and anti-capitalist sentiments are enjoying a subterranean resurgence, but on the surface they take the form of a debate between Joseph Stiglitz and the international monetary Fund IMF. What used to be a class struggle has now been reduced to a quarrel in the faculty lounge.

All three discourses can be used to criticize the status quo without incurring the odium of openly attacking democracy or the market. Groups with totally conflicting purposes can exploit all three to serve their own agendas. Anticorruption campaigns were designed as a coordinated effort by civil society and the international community the World Bank, the IMF, and Western governments to pressure national governments into delivering good governance.

The anticorruption rhetoric shared by Washington and local civil society actors was intended to answer the question of what had gone wrong. Mass publics were ready to sign on. But the result has been that political competition in many democracies is now reduced to a confrontation between a government accused of corruption and an opposition that claims to be slightly less corrupt. Anticorruption campaigns have undermined politics understood as a matter of representative government and clashing ideas and programs.

Far from contributing to a narrowing of the gap between publics and elites, anticorruption discourse has enlarged the gap. Antiterrorist discourse has been skillfully used to foster suspicion of NGOs and independent media and to curb civil liberties. Governments seized the opportunity and began manufacturing terrorists. This model has the potential to be replicated. Governments that had found their freedom of action modestly weakened by the spread of democracy and global interdependence have used antiterrorism to bolster their control and enhance the secrecy of their operations.

Washington adopted a high profile in promoting the anticorruption agenda, attempting to bypass governments by telling civil society actors that corrupt governments are the problem. The anticorruption drive was designed to promote the spread of capitalism and deepen democracy. Antiterrorist discourse was designed to rally the world around America. It failed. Unfortunately, it has a chance to succeed. A council on Foreign relations report declared that improving the U. Can it work? This is the lesson that America learns from its own history. But promotion of democracy can suffer collateral damage from the unholy struggle among the discourses of anticorruption, antiterrorism, and anti-Americanism that shape our world today.

The threat of terrorism has already confronted democratic societies with the need to renegotiate the borders between civil liberties and public safety. Each society should answer the question of how much freedom it is ready to sacrifice to have a better chance to defend itself in the face of the global terrorist threat on its own. The problem occurs when the answers are given, not by society, but by undemocratic governments.

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The way in which the U. Washington paid the price for such policies in Latin America in the days of the cold War, and is paying the price for such policies in the Middle east today. Yet, ignoring the reality of the terrorist threat is also not an option. The objective of combating terrorism through military and police cooperation and the objective of spreading democracy will remain in tension and at times even in outright conflict. At the very moment when Georgian civil society took to the streets in defense of their right to fair elections, former President Eduard Shevardnadze was quick to label the popular movement an American-inspired conspiracy.

The strategy of authoritarian governments is to try to force democratic movements to dissociate themselves from the United States, thus isolating them and depriving them of international support.

For the United States, promotion of democracy is a vehicle for winning the hearts and minds of people around the world. Guided by the understandable desire to protect themselves from the rising wave of anti-Americanism, many European governments and foundations are trying to distance themselves from American democracy-promotion efforts in environments where there is strong antipathy to the united States. This stance can jeopardize any chance for democratic breakthroughs in many parts of the world.

The democratic momentum of the s was possible because Europe and America shared a common democratization agenda; in many areas, their democracy-promotion programs were coordinated. A transatlantic divide in the field of promotion of democracy will erode the very idea of internationally backed democratization efforts.

The miracle of cannot be repeated.