France and Anti-Americanism

By Astier, Henri | Contemporary Review, June 1993 | Go to article overview

France and Anti-Americanism


Astier, Henri, Contemporary Review


THE 1980s saw a sea-change in French political thinking: the USSR, which had long ceased to be a model but had benefited from a unilateral non-aggression pledge from the socialist left, was now seen as a totalitarian monster; NATO rearmament, not CSCE waffling, was perhaps the best protection after all; the communists' share of the electorate dropped to 10 per cent years before the Berlin Wall fell; Marxist analysis was discredited and the works of Friedrich Hayek and other long-ignored liberals were dusted off; 'third worldist' guilt was exposed in Pascal Bruckner's 1983 influential book Le Sanglot de l'homme blanc;(1) that same year the ruling socialists embraced fiscal restraint, monetary tightness, and market discipline with the zeal of new converts. In this intellectual climate, denouncing America's military or economic influence was no longer 'politically correct' in France.

French anti-Americanism, however, did not disappear: a die-hard survivor, it moved from the quicksands that had engulfed radical critique to the firmer terrain of cultural nationalism. For one century intellectuals of all persuasions had tended to view Americans as money-grubbing barbarians. After the Second World War many left-wing Frenchmen, like other progressives throughout Europe, felt that occupation of the Old World by legions of gum-chewing, Coca Cola-drinking hillbillies posed the threat of cultural subjection. As Paul Hollander notes, 'this cultural anti-Americanism . . . has remained the most pronounced among the manifestations of French anti-Americanism, persisting even at a time when its political roots had atrophied'.(2)

Throughout the 1980s the man who led the French resistance to the United States' assault on European sophistication was Jack Lang. In a historic speech at the 1982 UNESCO conference in Mexico, the flamboyant culture minister denounced the invasion of pop songs, movies and TV serials from 'an immense empire of profit', calling for a 'real crusade against (. . .) this financial and intellectual imperialism which no longer grabs territory, or rarely, but grabs consciousness, ways of thinking, ways of living'.

Opposition to 'cultural imperialism' as the most vicious form of oppression is one of the many themes shared by anti-liberals at both ends of the ideological spectrum. The French authoritarian right, whose most recent avatar is the 'Nouvelle Droite' movement of the early 1980s, has always poured scorn on the relentless mediocrity of Western mercantile democracies. Its leader Alain de Benoist, writing in a 1982 issue of the movement's magazine, proclaimed 'decadence worse than dictatorship', and concluded that he couldn't think of a worse fate than 'having to spend the rest of (his) days eating hamburgers near Brooklyn'. Elsewhere he elaborated on the two forms of totalitarianism: 'the first, in the East, imprisons, persecutes, hurts the bodies; at least it leaves hope intact. The other, in the West, creates robots happy to live in an air-conditioned hell. It kills the soul'. After Lang's Mexico speech, de Benoist paid a warm tribute to the culture minister, who 'may have pronounced the most important speech in contemporary history since de Gaulle's Pnom Penh address'.(3)

The idea that Racine and Debussy may be swept away by Ninja Turtles and Bon Jovi might seem outlandish, but it makes perfect sense if you entertain a healthy distrust of the market. As Marc Fumaroli pointed out in a recent essay,(4) Lang took to its logical conclusion the premise on which French cultural policy has been based for the past forty years: the State has a central role in keeping art alive. 'Seven more years and the disaster would have been complete,' Lang said after he became minister in 1981. 'Artistic activity would have been abandoned to the laws of the market'. To resuscitate the arts, which had been knocked into a coma by the law of profit, the new socialist government rushed them into intensive care by instantly doubling the ministry's budget. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

France and Anti-Americanism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.