Anti-Americanism: Is It Europe’s Obsession?
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Vladislav Inozemtsev

PhD in Economics; he is Head of the Department of World Economy at the Faculty of Public Administration, Lomonosov Moscow State University, and Director of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies.

The growing alienation between the United States and the
European Union is becoming more and more apparent. With their
increasing differences in geopolitical approaches, cultural
traditions, domestic policies and lifestyles the Old and New Worlds
now bear little resemblance to the natural components of a single
Western civilization. The Americans cannot abandon their somewhat
scornful attitude toward the Europeans, which they acquired in the
postwar years, whereas the Europeans have increasingly acquired an
anti-American stance. Meanwhile, these “unfriendly” relations
differ in nature: America’s lack of interest in Europe is most
likely to be instigated through the stubbornness of social
stereotypes, whereas Europe’s dislike of America appears to be more
ideologically charged.

Is this anti-Americanism constructive as a political ideology?
Is its growth conducive to a better understanding of the current
trends now shaping the modern world? Finally, is this backlash the
result of the mistakes made by the Americans themselves, or can it
be better explained as simply “an inferiority complex” of the less
fortunate who live outside the prosperous United States? The
Europeans are rarely indulged in pondering such questions;
therefore one cannot help admiring the acuteness with which such
questions are addressed in this new book by Jean-Francois Revel, a
member of the Academie Francais and the patriarch of the French
intellectual tradition.

In fact, the renowned author and sociologist reveals nothing
new, he only calls on his compatriots to scrutinize the hard facts.
According to Revel, anti-Americanism is more than a perception of
the United States as the only superpower. It bears an impetus to
change the world order that has taken shape in the second half of
the 20th century. The understanding of new realities has resulted
in a situation when anti-Americanism attitudes “have spread, and
become apparent to a certain extent, throughout the globe,
including Europe where they had been brought into being, and some
capitals where they have vaulted up to the state of an obsession or
some foreign policy principle” (p. 114).

Should America be viewed as a source of all problems of the past
century? The author says no. “It is rather Europeans who made the
20th century the gloomiest in the history of humankind, especially
as regards politics and morals. It is they who provoked the two
most disastrous world wars. It is they who devised and implemented
the two most criminal regimes that have ever emerged in human
societyѕ it is in Europe that we should look for those who are
responsible, at least partially, for the impasses and convulsions
of the underdeveloped part of the world” (p. 115). True, one could
argue that such an understanding of the 20th century history is
oversimplified, but does that make it less accurate?

Would it be correct to uphold the notion that American society
is so full of imperfections? The author once again believes the
answer is no. Instead, he reminds the reader that suffrage was
granted to French women at a later time than in America. (However,
to make the picture complete, he should have mentioned that racial
discrimination in its most extreme forms persisted in the United
States up until the end of the 1960s.) Revel emphasizes that in
most regions of France crime rates increased rapidly through the
1990s, while in New York crime was steadily declining. Regrettably,
the author neglects to note that there were some 1,932,000 people
in U.S. jails and reformatories by 2001, which is 0.7 percent of
the total population. At the same time, there were an estimated
57,800 people behind bars in France, or seven times fewer inmates
per capita than in America.

Disscussing the problem surrounding the deficiency of American
democracy, which became all too apparent during the last
presidential election, Revel underlines that “democracy in the
European Union functions less effectively than in the union of the
American states, that the political weight of each of the European
countries in the European Parliament (and the European Commission)
is only remotely related to its real demographic weight” (p. 50).
It should be noted, however, that the European Union has not (at
least up until now) become a federal state, like the United States,
which it has continued to be for over two hundred years. The author
points to the fact that Europe has been the center of terrorist
activities and the seat of many terrorist organizations for many
years. However, the causes for European terrorism can hardly be the
same as those which delivered jihad terrorists into the skies over
New York and Washington.

Yet, this section of the book makes the reader question whether
the Europeans are justified in their criticism of American society,
its way of life and culture. The author’s questioning of this
stereotypical perspective of Europe is, in fact, one of the book’s
key objectives. For Revel, the U.S.A. is not an ideal society; he
admits all the drawbacks of the American model for organizing
social relations, but he also recognizes its right to exist as it
desires, and thinks that it would be most unreasonable to deny its
many successes. He also finds it more advantageous to transform
European skepticism of America into efforts to improve Europe.

The author also attempts to break the established public opinion
that the increasing American influence in the world is linked with
the processes of globalization. Revel justly writes that
“globalization had existed long before the emergence of the United
States, it has actually accompanied the entire history of
capitalism” (p. 79). “Although today much is being said about
America’s crucial role in the world, Europe played the decisive
role during the first two waves of globalization since it was
exactly Europe that spread its capital, technologies, languages and
the Europeans themselves across continents” (p.80). The author
points out that globalization is the product of the Western world;
it is the product of liberal capitalism rather than the result of
U.S. plans to subdue the rest of the world. Furthermore, the author
proves that the numerous alternative concepts of globalization,
some of which are actively supported by the European leftists, are
nothing but wishful thinking and reactionary in nature. “The
leftists,” the author adds, “deny globalization implemented through
the use of market mechanisms. They would rather accept
globalization achieved without the market: such globalization
appears to them to be very desirable ideologically and politicallyѕ
In the 19th and 20th centuries socialism was seen as an
international movement. It produced the First, the Second, the
Third and the Fourth Internationals, the very name of which
suggested planetary ambitions” (pp. 76 – 77). As for antiglobalist
movements, according to the author, they are a disguise for the
forces that desire to hinder the development of liberal economic
and political tradition which embodies the very essence of Western

Revel maintains that American society is very viable and rests
upon the fundamental principles of Western civilization. Although
it differs from European society, it is nonetheless as perfect as
European society; moreover, America played a most positive,
civilizing role in 20th century history. The author repeatedly
highlights the idea that the European version of anti-Americanism
was mainly caused by ideological and political phenomena which are
characteristically European. Today, many countries “continue to use
anti-Americanism to justify the insolvency of their governments,
the imperfection of their ideological systems and the crying
economic mismanagement” (p. 153). Speaking of anti-Americanism, he
stresses that “this idОe fixe results, above all, in that the other
countries dodge the responsibility for the destinies of the world”
(p. 115).

The author strongly believes that the geopolitical and
ideological confrontation between Europe and the United States that
has been increasing over the last few years is, on the one hand,
replete with anti-American sentiment while, on the other hand, only
helps it to intensify. “One of the reasons for the U.S. unilateral
actions consists in that the Europeans not infrequently refuse to
take into account the analysis and conclusions made by the U.S.;
they consider them to be biased and running contrary to reality,
and thus refrain from relying on such conclusions in politics” (p.
230). Discussing the criticism of American “unilateralism” by the
Europeans, he reminds them that “had it not been for the U.S.
unilateral approach during the Cold War and not for the fact that
the Europeans’ perpetual advice went unheeded, the U.S.S.R. would
have continued much longer” (p. 219).

One can’t help comparing Revel’s monograph with a no less
remarkable book, The World We’re In, by Will Hutton, which was also
published in 2002. Hutton is the first British to come forward in
the last few decades with forcible arguments against imitating the
American model of development; he argues that the United Kingdom
should reorient itself more toward continental Europe.
Jean-Francois Revel, in his turn, appears to be the first in the
French writing Establishment to soundly declare his loyalty to the
United States, despite the fact that such a stand in France is
considered to be almost indecent.

The comparison of these two very dissimilar books brings me to
the conclusion that their significance lies, above all, in that
they express the opinion of the minority – and attention to the
opinion of the minority is the most important distinctive feature
of any tolerant democratic society. As long as such opinions are
heard and taken into consideration, the inner links between
different parts of the Western world will never be severed and no
obsession – either anti-Americanism or anti-Europeanism – will