The Flavors of Anti-Americanism

The Wilson Quarterly, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview
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The Flavors of Anti-Americanism


THE SOURCE: "Anti-Americanisms" by Peter J. Katzenstein and Robert O. Keohane, in Policy Review, Oct.-Nov. 2006.

THE FOUNDERS WERE STILL scraping up votes to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1787 when Alexander Hamilton fought back against the anti-Americanism that was already popular in Europe. Only "arrogant pretensions," he wrote in one of the early Federalist papers, allowed serious men to claim that the American continent was so degenerate that "even dogs cease to bark."

Two hundred and twenty years later, anti-Americanism hasn't tapered off. It isn't even a single phenomenon, according Peter J. Katzenstein and Robert O. Keohane, political scientists at Cornell and Princeton, respectively. It reaches far beyond what the United States does to what the United States is. The complexity and kaleidoscopic nature of American society trigger a similar broad and complex range of anti-American feelings, and their examination has become something of an academic cottage industry. Katzenstein and Keohane wrestle the phenomenon into six categories.

The most benign, "liberal anti-Americanism; thrives in some former colonies of Great Britain, the authors write. These and other advanced industrialized communities mourn America's failure to live up to its high principles. They see democratic America as a hypocritical, self-interested power, for example, supporting dictatorships or advocating free trade while protecting its own farmers from competition.

"Social anti-Americanism," found most commonly in Scandinavia and Japan, decries Uncle Sam's relatively unfettered capitalism and go-it-alone exceptionalism in international affairs.

"Sovereign-nationalist anti-Americanism" is particularly strong in China, where the history and aspirations of the ancient kingdom combine to trigger virulent outbursts in response to any perceived lack of "respect.

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