Andre Siegfried and the Complexities of French Anti-Americanism
Kennedy, Sean, French Politics, Culture and Society
Though it is generally agreed that Andre Siegfried (1875-1959) was one of the most enduring and influential French commentators on the United States between the 1920s and the 1950s, scholars do not agree on the extent to which he should be considered anti-American. This article concludes that while Siegfried round the American social model to be profoundly unsettling, and that his views of the country's population were consistently informed by racist assumptions, he also evinced some admiration for its economic dynamism and regarded it as a necessary if problematic partner. Moreover, for much of his career many American commentators regarded Siegfried as a perceptive and fair-minded observer of their country, though by the 1950s his racist views drew increasing criticism. Siegfried's career thus illustrates the complexities of French intellectual anti-Americanism.
Keywords: Andre Siegfried, anti-Americanism, racism, modernity, French-American relations
"With such a friend, who needs an enemy? The volume before us shows clearly the pernicious character of [Andre] Siegfried's influence, especially as it concerns the image of the United States held by many Europeans." With these words, the American historian Oscar Handlin, writing in Commentary in 1956, condemned Siegfried's 1954 book Tableau des Etats-Unis, complaining that the Frenchman had been promoting flawed ideas about America for half a century. (2) Handlin was not alone in his judgment; the political scientist David McLellan, in a review of the same work, concluded that Siegfried "has been something of a national force in shaping the contemporary image of America," a state of affairs he considered most unfortunate. There were other French commentators who were more fair-minded, McLellan claimed, but instead "works such as those of Siegfried and Co." had had an "inordinate impact," encouraging the development of Gallic anti-Americanism. (3)
While not all reviewers would have agreed with Handlin's or McLellan's assessment of Siegfried, few would have disputed their assertions concerning his influence. As Time magazine put it in 1955, Siegfried was "France's No.1 living authority on the US." (4) By then, commentaries by French writers on American culture, politics, and society were legion, but few could match the longevity of Siegfried's efforts to interpret America for France. He had first visited the United States in 1898 at the age of twenty-three and returned fourteen times--with several visits lasting months--before his death in 1959. It took some time for him to establish his position as an authority on America; he only truly achieved renown with the publication of Les Etats-Unis d'aujourd'hui (translated into English as America Comes of Age) in 1927. Though he did not produce another book about the country until 1954 with the publication of the Tableau des Etats-Unis (translated the following year as America at Mid-Century), in the intervening decades he published numerous articles and short studies, and his opinions were widely sought. His status as a professorat the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques, where he taught courses on American civilization, further enabled him to shape French elite attitudes towards the USA.
After his death, Siegfried was lauded for his influence on the study of French politics as well as his views on international relations, but in more recent years he has been criticized by scholars such as Pierre Birnbaum, Gerard Noiriel, and Zeev Sternhell for his allegedly essentialist, even racist conception of French nationhood. (5) Siegfried is also frequently cited in studies of French anti-Americanism, though scholars differ in their characterizations of him. Pascal Ory and Bernadette Galloux-Fournier concede that Siegfried had reservations about the United States, but note his restraint in comparison to vociferous critics such as Georges Duhamel. Gerard Fabre contends that while his views were ethnocentric, Siegfried was also a pioneering comparative analyst. (6) Others stress the depth of Siegfried's anti-Americanism, seeing him as emblematic of the cultural conservatism prevalent among the French elites of his day. Earlier studies of interwar French anti-Americanism by Paul Gagnon, David Strauss, and Donald Allen noted Siegfried's antipathy towards America's mass society, (7) while, more recently, Richard Kuisel and Jean-Philippe Mathy see him as typical of the interwar French suspicion of the US, and Victoria de Grazia cites Siegfried as an "ever-quotable" example of hostility to American mass production techniques and consumerist mores. A 2004 survey of anti-Americanism cites Siegfried as an example of French resentment towards that country's progress and power. (8)
Bringing together the principal lines of attack on Siegfried, Philippe Roger has recently drawn attention to the links between Siegfried's racism and his anti-Americanism. In his 1996 study of French discourse on the US during the early Cold War, Roger argued that Siegfried combined both rigorous analysis with cliches and stereotypes. (9) However, in his 2002 L'Ennemi americain, he emphasized Siegfried's contribution to anti-Americanism. Quick to sketch "facial portraits," Roger maintained, Siegfried built upon long-extant French stereotypes about America, but was also a pernicious innovator who helped to promote the idea of "Jewish influence" in the US, an argument soon appropriated by extremists. More generally, he promoted an image of the country as an ethnic Babel, swamped by immigrants who would either tear it apart, or transform it to the point where it would no longer be recognizable. (10)
The present article contends that further analysis of Siegfried's writings about the US, and American reactions to those writings, complicates our understanding of French intellectual anti-Americanism. Racist conceptions were indeed crucial to Siegfried's profound critique of American society, but he treated other themes in depth and sought to appear as an objective observer. Moreover, while he consistently argued that a great cultural divide separated America and either France or a vaguely defined "Europe" (which he conflated with his own country), in the process he evinced some praise for the United States and came to see it as a necessary, if problematic, partner. We thus need to appreciate the complexity of Siegfried's anti-Americanism; we also need to appreciate the extent to which his opinions were accorded respect in the United States, as well as in his own country. Siegfried always had American critics, and their numbers grew towards the end of his career as his ideas about race and nationhood were increasingly discredited. Yet he also enjoyed considerable respect in the US from the 1920s through the 1950s. His career thus illustrates the need to historicize the evolution of French anti-Americanism. While approaches such as Roger's, which focus upon the emergence of a discourse through the cumulative interplay of texts, are invaluable for highlighting the consistency of anti-American ideas, assessing the contemporary reception of Siegfried's work helps us to determine when, and how, "anti-Americanism" came to be regarded as such.
Siegfried was a son of the nineteenth-century Protestant bourgeoisie that played a crucial role in shaping the early Third Republic. His mother, Julie Puaux, was active in early feminist and social reform movements, while his father, Jules, was a successful entrepreneur who became mayor of Le Havre and was first elected as a deputy in 1885. Siegfried pere served briefly as a cabinet minister and a term as a senator, but it was primarily in the Chamber of Deputies that he ruade his political career, until his death in 1922. Opposed to socialism but dedicated to social reform, Jules Siegfried played a key role in the creation of the Musee Social, a think-tank devoted to studying non-collectivist solutions to social problems. (11) Late in his own life, their son, Andre, observed a contradiction between his parents' strong awareness of their social rank and their "affectation of simplicity," confessing his own fondness for "comfort, luxury and [high] society." Yet by and large, Siegfried identified strongly with his father's liberal-conservative republican values. (12) While he was unable to follow his father in pursuing a political career (despite four attempts to be elected to the Chamber), through activities such as his life-long association with the Musee Social and in his many writings he displayed a firm commitment to liberal economics and politics, as well as uneasiness with collectivism and mass society. While believing that in the machine age popular sovereignty was "indispensable," he strongly admired "the system of the eighteenth century, which was founded on the affirmation of the individual." (13)
A fascination with the wider world was no less a constant in Siegfried's life and work. He spent his early childhood in Le Havre, learning geography "by a kind of direct contact with the sea and international maritime relations. I did not need books to teach me that there were other continents." (14) Extensive travel, notably visits to North America, Australia, Japan, China, Indochina, and India between 1900 and 1902, reinforced this proclivity. Siegfried later concluded that during these years he had witnessed the passing of an era, that of "the international mercantile republic" of the nineteenth century, when British naval hegemony and beliefs in free trade had reinforced European power and prestige. (15) While care has to be taken not to conflate such reflections with Siegfried's earlier impressions, it seems clear that the rise of American power challenged many of his key convictions. For Siegfried, the United States would become the quintessential "mass society," and, as such, an antithesis to the individualist ethos he prized. At the same time, America's growing influence disrupted the Eurocentric international system of the nineteenth century; while still part of Western civilization, for Siegfried, America's conformist values and polyglot population rendered it unnervingly distinct from its European cousins.
Identifying Siegfried's precise intellectual influences as far as his views of the United States are concerned is difficult, but his reservations about the country's ethnic diversity soon became clear enough. He rarely mentioned Alexis de Tocqueville, but the subject of his doctoral thesis and first book, La Democratie en Nouvelle-Zelande (1904), suggests an influence. (16) From the 1920s onward Siegfried cited classics such as James Bryce's 1888 American Commonwealth, Paul Bourget's 1895 Outre-mer, and Abel Hermant's 1897 Les Transatlantiques, though the extent to which they shaped his earlier views of the country is uncertain. The Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques, where he received his doctorate and later taught for many years, was often regarded as sympathetic to an "Anglo-Saxon" outlook, but one of Siegfried's mentors, Emile Boutmy, wrote Elements d'une psychologie politique du peuple americain (1890-92), which criticized the "low quality" of recent immigrants to America. (17) While Siegfried did not cite Boutmy directly he came to endorse this view. He was also an admirer of the historian Hippolyte Taine, who stressed the role of race and geography in shaping national character, as well as the ultra-nationalist writer Maurice Barres. While eschewing biological racism, from an early stage in his career Siegfried stressed the role of culturally-defined "ethnic personalities" that displayed enduring features. (18)
Between 1898 and 1914 Siegfried visited the US five times; over that period his enthusiasm for American dynamism was tempered by various concerns, especially the shifting composition of the country's population. Like other French observers of the time, he depicted the US as exotic, and entirely distinct from Europe in its geography and mores. (19) At the same time, he was an admirer of American productivity and innovation. He praised institutions such as Philadelphia's Commercial Museum for its efficiency and orientation towards business solutions, and was impressed by the high wages and relative conservatism of US workers in contrast to the greater radicalism of their less well-off French counterparts. More generally, as he put it in a 1908 lecture delivered at the Musee Social, he saw the United States "as one of humanity's finest examples of youth and vitality." (20) However, when it came to the phenomenon of mass immigration to America, Siegfried grew concerned.
Initially he was optimistic about this trend; during a visit to Chicago in 1899 he had concluded that the mass of new immigrants, while "vulgar," bestowed the city with "treasures of life and energy" and would assimilate completely in a generation or two. (21) However, by the time of his tour in the summer of 1914, he had come to believe that newcomers from Southern and Eastern Europe, and from Asia, threatened to overwhelm the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants. In a series of letters written for his hometown newspaper, Le Petit Havre (later published in book form as Deux mois en Amerique du Nord) he suggested that the country's identity was precarious, concluding that "[t]here is a threat of saturation." (22)
By this time Siegfried had also become more critical of American commercial culture. While he still found American capitalism "lively," he criticized some of its business practices as "immoral" and emphasized the materialism of US society. He was also beginning to see the country as an upstart challenger to French and European preeminence in world affairs. In 1904 he had already expressed annoyance at the fact that St. Louis wanted its World's Fair exhibit to outshine the splendid Parisian one. Ten years later, as he sailed from New York with other mobilized French nationals, he expressed doubts about the ethnic cohesion of American society while reassuring himself that Europe "remains the heart of world civilization." (23)
By the outbreak of the First World War, then, Siegfried had already developed clear opinions about the United States. His initial enthusiasm for its dynamism had not entirely faded, but he feared the country's hitherto impressive capacity for assimilation had been exhausted. Moreover, the increasing weight of the Mid- and Far West in US national life served to distance America ever more from Europe; during a stay in Denver in 1914 he commented that the city was at "the far reaches of Western civilization." (24) In crucial respects, his views were emblematic of dominant French notions of the United States between 1870 and 1914. This image, as Jacques Portes has shown, blended guarded enthusiasm for America with many concerns about the unsettling social model it offered. Siegfried's portrayals of the US reinforce Portes's claim that this was a critical period for the crystallization of French anti-Americanism; certainly many of the aforementioned themes persisted in his later writings. (25)
Following service during the First World War and work with the French section of the League of Nations, Siegfried returned to the US under the auspices of the Musee Social in 1925. In keeping with the think-tank's concerns, he explored American production methods and their social consequences, but also wished to conduct a broader analysis of the society at large. (26) To that end he traveled widely throughout the country for six months. His correspondence suggests he met with individuals in a variety of fields, ranging from industrialists, journalists, and social reformers, to the actor Douglas Fairbanks. (27) His views were further informed by official statistics and by public intellectuals such as Walter Lippmann and Sinclair Lewis. (28)
The resulting book--Les Etats-Unis d'aujourd'hui--showed that Siegfried's concerns about ethnicity and race remained intense. He gave considerable attention to mass immigration and the xenophobic reaction it had triggered, a reaction that found expression in forms ranging from prohibition to the revival of the Ku Klux Klan. He was uneasy about elements of this backlash, noting the encouragement of biological racism by writers such as Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard was leading to intolerable state intervention in the form of sterilization: "eugenics may eventually relegate the 'sacred rights of man' to the limbo of half-forgotten achievements." (29) But while Siegfried distanced himself from the "Anglo-Saxon" emphasis upon biology and eugenics, many of his anxieties echoed those of racists in the US. (30) Though he conceded they had made contributions to their new country, Siegfried believed the newcomers from Southern and Eastern Europe were inferior; either they would resist assimilation and threaten the integrity of the country, or, at best, their "Americanism" would be "morally shrunk in comparison to the vigor of the pioneers." He saw Jews as especially problematic in this regard, alluding to the "great value of Jewish collaboration" but suggesting that their presence had become excessive, observing that in New York "one is crammed into the subway along with countless stenographers with swarthy complexions, hook noses, and a flavor of the ghetto." (31) Siegfried's treatment of African Americans displayed a similar general dynamic; he condemned white persecution but legitimized racism by noting "those instincts of barbarity and bestiality that the blacks have inherited, and which may sudclenly break forth in an attempt at tape," concluding that "the color problem is an abyss into which we can look only with terror." (32)
Central though race remained to Siegfried's analysis, he also stressed the importance of religion to grasping the American national character. While he reviewed distinctions between the various Christian denominations as well as the split between modernists and fundamentalists, he discerned a fundamental spiritual unity in what he saw as an essentially Calvinist nation. The typical American, he argued, displayed "incontestable" good faith but also an "insufferable" sense of "self-satisfaction as a member of God's elect," an attitude which bolstered the conviction of Anglo-Saxon superiority. The Puritan ethos encouraged intolerance of dissent, as evidenced by the trial of John Scopes for teaching evolution. Siegfried saw no affinity between such an outlook and his own French Protestantism, a minority tradition which cherished individual liberty. Instead, he felt that American Protestantism encouraged conformist materialism, especially in the case of religious modernists, who emphasized "the confusion of spirituality and worldliness." (33)
Indeed, worldliness seemed to be the order of the day in the US. Astounded at the growth of the nation's economy, Siegfried echoed his earlier enthusiasm for American dynamism, but also apprehended that major qualitative changes were underway. The freewheeling era of the trusts, he argued, had given way to an era of greater state involvement and regulation, aimed at maximizing efficiency and output. While fewer specialized skills may have been required for the production process itself, executives and managers were becoming better educated and more broadly cultured than ever before. Businessmen such as Henry Ford--whom he admired--were instrumental to these changes, but Siegfried also praised the American government for displaying "rare intelligence and moral authority" in encouraging the reform of industrial methods. And while he felt that America had advantages over Europe in the form of a huge, standardized internal market, he gave the population its due. "Never before in history have social forces converged on so vast and intensive a scale, but even the extent of the created wealth is less remarkable than the dynamic forces of the human impulse that has brought this wealth into being." (34) Impressed as he was, however, Siegfried doubted that such expansion could last indefinitely. More generally, he was dismayed at the materialism and regimentation resulting from the unceasing emphasis upon production: "In its pursuit of wealth and power, America has abandoned the ideal of liberty to follow that of prosperity." (35)
In his analysis of politics Siegfried discussed the Republicans and the Democrats in some detail, but felt that to really understand what was going on one had to turn to civic associations, lobby groups, and
the press. He was impressed with the vibrancy of these institutions, but feared their use as instruments of manipulation. The apparatus for shaping public opinion was such that "given the malleability of the people, there appears to be no limit beyond which they cannot be led." His conclusions about politics thus reinforced those concerning economics: materialism was creating a nation of conformists. Nor did he take much comfort in the hesitant yet inexorable expansion of the US's international role. While Americans were deeply attached to their British cousins, France could not hope for such enthusiastic friendship. Indeed, not only was America distancing itself from Europe in diplomatic terms, as civilizations the two were drifting further apart. Siegfried wondered whether "in her enthusiasm to perfect her material success, has not America risked quenching the flames of individual liberty which Europe has always regarded as one of the chief treasures of civilization?" (36)
Les Etats-Unis d'aujourd'hui was one of a spate of French books on America that appeared during the late 1920s, both Andre Tardieu and Lucien Romier published studies of America the same year as Siegfried's. All three found a receptive audience in France, but it was arguably Siegfried's book that received the most accolades, establishing him as the preeminent interpreter of the United States. (37) It won the Prix Montyon of the Academie Francaise and ensured his election to the Academie des Sciences Morales et Politiques as well as a chair at the College de France. (38) It remained in print until 1947, with French reviewers widely, if not uniformly, enthusiastic. (39) But it was not only in France that Siegfried won recognition, the English translation of his book, America Comes of Age, resonated with the American reading public as well. Appearing at the same time as the French edition, it sold more than 20,000 copies within a year of its release and was the subject of public lectures, book discussion groups, and even the occasional sermon. (40) At a time when Americans themselves were debating the social consequences of rapid growth, and their government was sharply curtailing immigration amidst a climate of xenophobia, Siegfried's analysis, while arousing objections, was often adjudged to be unusually perceptive. (41)
Some specific points made in the book were challenged, notably Siegfried's claim that the American press was unduly influenced by advertisers. Personality magazine carried pointed refutations of these comments by a group of publishers. (42) Perhaps the most common general criticism leveled at Les Etats-Unis d'aujourd'hui focused on Siegfried's charge that Americans were especially materialistic. To critics this accusation was the product of simple bias. Historian Thomas Wertenbaker complained in 1928 in the Yale Review that "[i]t is superficial to conclude that we are a soulless people, merely because the soul of America does hOt pattern itself after the soul of France or Italy." (43) Charles Beard, writing in The New Republic, was scathing about Siegfried's contention that the United States was particularly obsessed with wealth, asserting that "considering the opportunities, no larger proportion of the total human energy in this country is devoted to acquiring material goods than in any European country." (44) Meanwhile, the reviewer for Outlook chided Siegfried for his elevation of an abstract conception of liberty over the benefits of greater comfort: "I have heard grandmother's tales of pioneer days, and I am willing to trade a little freedom of action for central heating, electric lights, and a shower-bath." (45)
While Siegfried's emphasis upon American materialism provoked some dissent, widespread (though contested) negative attitudes in the US towards Slavic, Latin, and Jewish immigrants perhaps explain why his racist analysis aroused fewer objections. (46) The San Francisco author Rebecca Godchaux disputed his characterization of Jews, but her comments were confined to a private letter to Siegfried. (47) Ernest Boyd, reviewing in Boston's Independent, believed that Siegfried underestimated the cohesion of American society, but still felt that his book "may well take its place beside Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America." (48) The associate editor of The American Hebrew did not take exception to Siegfried's antisemitic language (he initially thought that Siegfried might be Jewish) and invited him to contribute to that publication, which he eventually did. (49) Interestingly, for some reviewers Siegfried's criticism of the conformist Puritan ethos suggested that he was sympathetic to the plight of recent, non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants, even though a number of his statements indicated otherwise. The American Economic Review maintained that "[i]t is clear that M. Siegfried sees hopeful signs that [the future soul of America] will be neither Puritan nor Anglo-Saxon." (50) H.L. Mencken, writing in The Nation, took a similar line, suggesting that "Dr. Siegfried, as a Frenchman, is unable to grasp the 'equity' of having recent immigrants endure the continuing domination of Protestant Nordics." (51)
Mencken's enthusiasm for Siegfried's work was considerable, perhaps because he believed it echoed his own criticisms of the provincialism of American culture; he declared "this book is so good that it seems almost incredible." (52) While not all admirers of Les Etats-Unis d'aujourd'hui were quite so fulsome in their praise, Siegfried had nevertheless won their respect. Though some commentators objected to particular claims, the compliments Siegfried paid to American society led them to regard his work as fair-minded. They felt that he had pinpointed the sources of cultural anxiety in their nation, and was telling his readers unpalatable things which they nevertheless needed to hear. The Chicago News observed that Siegfried was occasionally prone to "exaggeration and distortion," but that his arguments were "arresting" and "worthy of being carefully weighed. Certainly a surrender of spiritual and intellectual freedom in exchange for material abundance would be a devastating departure from the pathway to the stars." (53) The Los Angeles Record suggested that while "many people" found Siegfried's book objectionable this was only because "it is too penetrating, tells too much of the truth and exposes our faults with painful candor." The Philadelphia Record maintained the book "deserves wide attention, especially among out financiers, industrialists, politicians and jingoes. They, alas, would never read it. It is, in many things, too true for their impassioned temperaments." (54) The New York Evening Sun found that Siegfried had told Americans "much of that 'truth about' ourselves which can only reveal itself to such a disinterested and well-intentioned investigator as this one." (55)
Yet, as we have seen, Siegfried's French nationality was an issue for some of his American critics, who viewed his work as a restatement of typical Gallic claims of cultural superiority. Charles Beard mockingly concluded that "since the soul of America is easily discovered by an elevated economist like M. Siegfried, and the soul of France can only be disclosed to the possessor of a particular cultural clairvoyance, it would be improper for anyone in the United States to traverse his verdict." (56) However, reviewers for The New York Times and New York Evening Post countered that Siegfried's status as a Frenchman distanced him from America and thereby gave him valuable perspective. The Times's Evans Clark underscored Siegfried's authority in this regard, asserting that "[a] Frenchman can view the American scene with an Olympian detachment." (56) The Saturday Review, on the other hand, believed Siegfried's nationality was a potential hindrance to objectivity--but concluded that he had managed to transcend it. (57) In sum, Les Etats-Unis d'aujourd'hui, while regarded by some as rehashing familiar French criticisms of American culture, was also widely regarded as a book that could promote understanding between the two nations. The American ambassador in Paris, Myron Herrick, felt that it had appeared at an auspicious moment, "when it was particularly important to encourage a better comprehension of the United States." (58)
For the remainder of the interwar era Siegfried was widely regarded on both sides of the Atlantic not as a strident anti-American polemicist, but as a perceptive if sometimes critical observer who could promote mutual understanding. In 1929, he was invited to deliver a series of lectures on the workings of the Third Republic at the Williamstown Institute of Politics. (59) At the time he was also publishing extensively on France and European-US relations in leading American periodicals, notably The Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs, and The Yale Review. (60) He returned again to the US in 1935, ranging from Los Angeles to New York in his travels. At a time when French governments were seeking to improve relations with the US, he and other commentators were seen as useful for influencing elite American opinion; for instance, a lecture delivered by Siegfried at Columbia University enjoyed state support. (61) As Europe drifted into war he assessed the solidarity between the Western democracies in the pages of Foreign Affairs. There were also plans to send him on a lecture tour of French universities and back to the US, though these were disrupted by the French defeat in 1940. (62)
The United States, of course, experienced great social upheavals during the 1930s. Siegfried recognized their profound consequences, though his writings during these years were also marked by powerful continuities. In columns for Le Petit Havre he explained how the Great Depression posed a fundamental challenge to the country's psyche: "The United States' weakness is that it was conceived and constructed only for expansion.... When the tide ceases to rise, when there is a retreat or even simply a halt, all America is unhinged." (63) He also grasped that Roosevelt's New Deal marked a turning point in American politics, though as a classical liberal he disapproved of FDR's interventionist policies. (64) But while Siegfried noted that, in focusing more on redistribution than production, American politics now resembled Europe's more than they previously had, he persisted in stressing fundamental differences in mentality. In some respects, the comparison flattered Americans, notably in their response to hardship: "They adroit that they are ruined and see that, from the moment when they have to live more simply, it is best to resign oneself to it with good humor.... We cannot liken ourselves to them in this respect." (65) Yet it was the darker aspects of the alien character of the US that fascinated Siegfried above all. The country's massive size meant that it lacked Europe's "human" dimensions, and while immigration had been sharply reduced, "mediocre" arrivals from Southern and Eastern Europe continued to disrupt the national psyche. (66) The result, he stressed to his Ecole Libre students in the spring of 1938, was that "European problems do not resemble American ones at all." (67)
By the following year, prodded by the prospect of war, Siegfried adjusted his emphasis somewhat by acknowledging the American contribution to Western civilization--to an extent. Comparing the US, British, and French democratic traditions in Foreign Affairs, he stated that, as a Frenchman, he regarded American values as more universal than those of the British, but argued that the values of 1789 had even greater appeal because, unlike those of the US, they transcended the boundaries of race--even though Siegfried himself regarded such boundaries as reasonable "from the standpoint of sound social and political organization." (68) In the spring of 1940 he praised the American people for their "persistent struggle ... to enhance the dignity of the human being by continually raising the plane on which he lives," but implied that their country could do more. "One may guess that sooner or later the United States will decide to accept world responsibilities transcending the limits of the American continent. Its physical power, its prestige, its wealth, its unparalleled industrial equipment, the fact that it is part and parcel of Western civilization--all drive it in that direction. But until it makes its decision Europe alone must uphold the world order on which our civilization depends." (69)
The French defeat of 1940 and the advent of the Vichy regime did little to alter Siegfried's views. He wrote an article for the pro-regime Le Temps in December 1941 in which he emphasized the inferiority of recent immigrants to the United States, adding that France must draw lessons from the American experience. (70) This stance legitimized official xenophobia but was also consistent with Siegfried's earlier writings. Similarly, in other articles for the same newspaper he reiterated previous arguments about the strength of British-American solidarity and the inevitability of growing US involvement in world-affairs. (71) His course on American civilization given at the Ecole Libre in 1941-1942 considered recent trends in US politics but also restated Siegfried's longstanding belief that America, while part of Western civilization, was growing increasingly distant from Europe. Though affirming that "the European is ... no doubt superior as an individual," he nevertheless conceded American advantages in terms of self-confidence and economic dynamism. (72) Interestingly, even though aspects of his critique of US society remained profound, some Vichy officials regarded Siegfried as pro-American; one report accused him of having spoken of "mon ami Roosevelt" and denouncing racism, though it added that he subsequently became more cautious. (73)
As the war drew to a close it became apparent that Siegfried remained a widely trusted interpreter of the US. While one British diplomat noted bitterly that Siegfried had shown little open support for the Anglo-Saxon powers until the Liberation, it seems that American officials regarded him as a useful source of information, meeting with him on at least two occasions, in 1942 and 1944. According to their reports, Siegfried had initially seen Generals Giraud or Weygand as better candidates to lead a liberated France, but eventually accepted de Gaulle as a counterweight to the Communists. (74) In any event, he was soon once again well-placed to comment on US affairs; his prestige further enhanced by his election to the Academie Francaise in the fall of 1944, he was also a member of the French delegation to the San Francisco Conference of 1945. He recorded his impressions of the conference and of America itself in the pages of the conservative daily Le Figaro, and before long was writing for US readers as well.
In the postwar era Siegfried reformulated many of his old criticisms, though he also took America's growing prosperity and its rivalry with the Soviet Union into account. He was concerned by what he saw as the intensifying conformity of US society, encouraged by the emphasis on productivity but also by Roosevelt's unhealthy expansion of the state, though he never ceased to be amazed by the American ability to generate wealth. "The current European standard of living," he opined in the pages of Le Figaro in April 1945, "seems as far from the American as that of Asia does from Europe." (75) In an article for the New York Times he blended criticism with praise and tried to set European views in context, as he instructed American readers of the chasm separating them from Europe. US leadership, he explained, was vastly preferable to Soviet domination, but involved its own challenges:
Certain aspects of the American trend disturb us--excessive confidence in mass production, a scale of values that attaches too great importance to quantity, a tendency to exaggerate organization, a leaning toward conformity.... Yet there is no country where the liberal and humanistic tradition is more vigorous, where the Christian influence, in its individualistic form, is more sincere, where human dignity from the social viewpoint is better protected.... European-American relations have now reached a new phase and the issue is that of the future of civilization itself. The pioneer of yesterday has become the heir of tomorrow. Europe would like an heir that would preserve Europe's own tradition. In spite of herself, Europe is a bit jealous. (76)
Evidently, Siegfried now held that America could preserve certain Western traditions, though his praise for the US was highly qualified and tinged with regret. In the final stages of his career he nevertheless saw himself as promoting Franco-American solidarity, suggesting to one American audience in 1949 that the US could teach his country much "in the realm of production and in the social order," while Americans could benefit from French experience in "the realm of the spirit and the intelligence." (77) He sought to encourage intellectual connections, taking part in a 1950 colloquium on France at Princeton, and returning for several months in 1951. The latter visit included five weeks at the University of Chicago in association with the Committee on Social Thought. In letters to Jacques Chapsal, the administrator of the Fondation nationale des sciences politiques (of which Siegfried was the first president), he indicated that he was impressed by the level of sympathy for France in the United States and the quality of elite American universities, but continued to perceive vast differences between the two countries. (78) At the Princeton conference he stressed that they were at different stages of historical evolution: the US was "largely a creation of the twentieth century," while France was "a finished product by the end of the eighteenth century." (79)
Research and interviews conducted during the 1951 voyage provided much of the material for Siegfried's second book on America, the Tableau des Etas-Unis, which appeared three years later. The work made some attempts to come to grips with the massive changes experienced by the US since the 1920s, but Siegfried continued to posit that America's ethnic composition, approach to production, and underlying mentality broke sharply with those of Europe. In his discussion of the US population, Siegfried concluded: "[t]he cessation of immigration since World War I has had the result of speeding up unification, but the general effect is still far from homogenous. This has resulted in a somewhat exotic impression as compared with the European nations racially blended at an earlier date." Interestingly, he now took issue with assumptions of Anglo-Saxon superiority, suggesting that some Slavic and Latin newcomers were "more creative artistically or scientifically than the Nordic peoples," yet he still believed that formidable barriers to assimilation remained, and that mass immigration had plenty of negative consequences: "there are currents of English or Scandinavian civic spirit, of German solidarity, of Dutch seriousness, but in this main stream there also flow the unstable geniality of the Irish, typically Jewish reactions, and oriental customs and influences which belong to the Mediterranean lands." (80)
Siegfried remained especially pessimistic when it came to African and Jewish Americans. During his 1951 visit he met with James Ivy, editor of The Crisis, who subsequently sent him a report from the NAACP emphasizing the progress being made in the struggle for equality. (81) Siegfried took a different view, however. While praising the ability of the civil rights leaders--in contrast to the general "passiveness and resignation" of their people--and conceding that the courts were increasingly critical of segregation, he doubted "whether a colored man will ever be treated as an equal, except so far as his legal position is concerned." (82) In his discussion of American Jews Siegfried persisted in views he advanced decades before, despite what had taken place in the interim. He conceded that Nazi and then Soviet persecution had led to a new wave of sometimes distinguished Jewish migrants reaching the United States, though "crypto-Communists and spies also appear to have crept in." But the paradox of Jewish life in America remained the same: while "the bearded Jew from some eastern European ghetto seems to become American, so to speak, at the end of an extremely short course, ... the soul of the Jew cannot be tamed, it remains at the bottom of the melting pot as a residue incapable of fusion." This drew Siegfried to the astounding conclusion that the "Jewish problem" in the United States, while "less virulent" than in Germany, was "more acute than in the other countries of Western Europe." (83)
In his discussion of the American economy Siegfried combined acknowledgment of significant changes with renewed concern about the consequences of mass production. The postwar era of "neo-capitalist" prosperity was characterized by its superhuman scale, massive reliance upon technology, and a growing emphasis upon "scientific" management and public relations. Siegfried seemed resigned to many of these developments, as well as to the growth of the welfare state. Indeed, he believed the system had some benefits, regretting that many European industrialists had not yet embraced the Fordist model of applying "democracy to purchasing power" (though he insisted that French employers cared more about their workers). But mechanization and technocracy had deleterious effects: "The American's vitality is linked with nervous instability, his attention is easily distracted.... [I]n the long run the perfection of modern machinery will engender in him a certain mental sloth because of his excessive respect for technical achievements and the opinion of experts." (84)
In all, Siegfried found the US a "country of vast possibilities, of complete good will and intense sincerity," but believed that it would benefit from imbibing more of the classical heritage transmitted from Europe. He gave some credit to American nationalism--"the United States owes much to their boosting, and other countries might well envy them for it'--but, despite what we have seen were his own concerns about the supposed influence of foreign radicals, he was distressed by the anti-Communist mood of the 1950s, which encouraged a belief that "liberty may be permitted only within the strictly limited framework of American institutions." (85) America's essentially Protestant outlook, notwithstanding growing acceptance of Catholics, meant that the country "is genuinely anxious to improve the moral destiny of mankind," but this would be achieved primarily in material terms. This combination of moralizing with economic self-interest had, in Siegfried's view, some unfortunate results, notably in foreign affairs. While America had engaged in colonialism through westward expansion, its revolutionary tradition led it sincerely, if hypocritically, to condemn the imperialism of others. "To Americans Algeria is 'colonial,' but neither Texas nor California is." Siegfried concluded by despairing for Europe's humanist traditions in the face of quickening Americanization: "this civilization inherited from Europe will shed on the way shreds of contemplative spirit, something of the critical spirit of the individual, as it moves toward a new conception of human dignity, which is more social. The essential element will be preserved and it will always remain a Western civilization, but it will no longer be European...." (86)
In France many felt that Siegfried had written a book well-suited to its time. Though some colleagues disputed points of emphasis or detail, the consensus was that he remained an acute observer of America. (87) In the US as well, there was still praise, though some of it was guarded. Felix Levy of the Chicago Sun-Times maintained that Siegfried was usefully leading Americans to consider the direction in which their country was headed. The Christian Science Monitor noted his regret at the passing of Europe's ascendancy but characterized his work as non-partisan, while the Atlantic Monthly commented that the book "is written with a degree of detachment which no American could possibly achieve, and with a good-tempered objectivity which few foreigners have succeeded in achieving." (88) Yet even some friendly responses cautioned readers that elements of Siegfried's analysis were problematic. Time observed that Siegfried "can hit off a brisk two-page thumbnail of FDR with a degree of objectivity difficult for an American to attain," but his new writings "on American economics seem obvious or dated; his discourses on politics are marred by errors of a sort that never appeared in America Comes of Age." (89)
Other critics went further. The American Quarterly credited Siegfried with raising profound questions about American civilization, but noted that he made sweeping judgments without giving any real attention to cultural and intellectual trends in the US; "no wonder Siegfried's typical American turns out to be a semi-moronic 'mass man.'" Historian Crane Brinton, writing in The New York Herald Tribune, was more scathing, contending that Siegfried's new work was "completely rewritten but fundamentally the same book [that he wrote in 1927]." The Catholic magazine Commonweal averred that "poor selection of evidence does not alone account for M. Siegfried's emphasis.... He must make America pay for its prosperity and for the poverty that it has imposed on Europe." (90) Such responses can be understood in light of the book's shortcomings, but also of American frustration with a Cold War ally whose elites were deemed inimical to change--a view which the sweeping character and rigidity of Siegfried's interpretation tended to confirm. (91)
However, it was Siegfried's comments about race which aroused the most pointed objections, for by the 1950s American views on the issue had evolved. During the era of the New Deal and the Second World War, civic conceptions of American nationhood strengthened and racialist ones weakened, though they retained considerable purchase. Distinctions among European nationalities lost some of their salience as the broader concept of "Caucasian" became more influential, and the focus shifted to relations between whites and blacks. America's concern for its image as it waged the Cold War reinforced a growing intellectual consensus emphasizing universalism and equality. To be sure, recent historiography suggests that Handlin's claim that Americans had largely repudiated facial thinking, as advanced in his 1957 book Race and Nationality in American Life, was premature. New concepts of race denied that nationalities were races as well as notions of racial superiority, but, as Matthew Jacobson has argued, there still inhered in them, even unintentionally, "a very real power to create and police boundaries." The African-American struggle for civil rights was accompanied by intense conflict; Jewish Americans might have been increasingly seen as Caucasian but they were still regarded as socially distinct in some respects. (92) Nevertheless, given the changing climate, one can see how Siegried's insistence upon differences between white "races," and his contentions regarding Jews and African Americans, would be received with skepticism in some quarters.
Indeed, even before the book appeared in English there had been concerns about Siegfried's depiction of Jews in Tableau des Etats-Unis; the original translator objected to the book's language and was replaced. It appears that the American publisher, Harcourt Brace, also expressed reservations, but Siegfried denied that he was an antisemite and the English edition featured only minor changes. (93) Once it came out, several American reviewers took issue with his analysis. Handlin, whose objections to Siegfried's views and belief in the decline of racism in the US have been noted, concluded that "the errors that besmirch every chapter of this book result from an effort to square an archaic conception of nationality with the actual circumstances of American lire, which in crucial respects run counter to it." (94) Meanwhile, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., writing in The New York Times, archly concluded that the book was useful primarily for what it revealed about French anxieties toward America, dismissing altogether what he called "M. Siegfried's rehash of familiar population statistics and outmoded facial theories." (95) Mercer Cook of Howard University, writing in The Journal of Negro History, thought Siegfried "in most respects ... admirably prepared for the delicate task of interpreting the United States," yet nonetheless round his discussion of African Americans riddled with problems. Above all, "whether or not he realizes it, M. Siegfried is himself to some extent a disciple of Gobineau. This reviewer recalls a public lecture, 'Negroes in the World,' delivered by the author at the Salle Gaveau in Paris three years ago. On that occasion, the distinguished Frenchman echoed the familiar stereotypes that revealed his deep conviction of the Negro's inherent inferiority." (96)
This uneven reception of Tableau des Etats-Unis did not end Siegfried's ambivalent engagement with America. He spent the fall term of 1955 as a visiting professor at Harvard, where he found the students able and sympathetic. (97) But while he and his wife were socially popular, intellectually he appears to have been increasingly isolated. One of his former students, Laurence Wylie, noted that Siegfried's American colleagues largely rejected what they saw as his outmoded portrait of their society; in their view his approach was characterized by "an irritating determinism." (98) For his part, Siegfried's later observations on the US professed respect for the values of small-town America, but continued to bemoan the nation's increasing conformity; anticommunism encouraged a mood that was "no longer welcoming, nor liberal, nor tolerant." (99) He was also ever more exasperated by American anti-colonialism, observing in 1957 that, "For a long time we believed we could appeal to the conscience of a common civilization to be defended, to the solidarity of the white race, to the duty of maintaining Europe's achievement in the world. It must be said, as the Suez Crisis has just clearly shown, that such reasoning does not seriously move American sensibilities." (100)
While this particular criticism of the US was rooted in a specific incident, Siegfried's emphasis upon America's alleged failure to support Europe was in keeping with his long-standing ambivalence. Though he could certainly be critical of US foreign policy, he was not consistently a "political" anti-American--at the beginning of World War Two, he hoped the country would join the struggle against Nazism, and after 1945 he saw its leadership as indubitably preferable to Soviet Communism. Rather, his anxieties about the United States were primarily cultural in nature. (101) To his mind, America's constant economic innovation and lack of social stability, in contrast to the ethos supposedly embodied by the French bourgeoisie, represented a new stage in world history in which the primacy of European civilization was waning, obliging continental elites to accommodate to the mass society so clearly typified by the US. In addition, Siegfried consistently racialized the American challenge, positing the US as a negative model of ethnic homogeneity and denying its capacity to integrate African and Jewish Americans, whilst also reiterating denigrations of these groups.
Yet while Siegfried's anti-Americanism was deep-rooted, it had its limits. He did not view the US as a spiritual enemy to be opposed outright, in contrast to "non-conformist" thinkers such as Emmanuel Mounier. (102) Instead, he regarded America as a tenuous ally. Though taking note of its rising power with a growing sense of resignation, he did not completely jettison his appreciation of US innovation and dynamism. Shifting American reactions to his work in his lifetime must also be taken into account. Siegfried's interpretation always encountered objections, but for decades he was taken seriously in the US, and was often regarded as a prescient, and even friendly, observer. To be sure, in the 1920s some American commentators disputed his insistence that their country was uniquely materialistic, and thirty years later the criticisms had grown sharper, as Siegfried refused to modify his racist framework despite an evolving intellectual climate in which such views were increasingly rejected. What this changing reaction suggests is that what constitutes French anti-Americanism depends partly upon social and intellectual developments in the US itself.
University of New Brunswick in Fredericton
(1.) An earlier version of this article was presented at the 53rd annual meeting of the Society for French Historical Studies in Houston, Texas. I would like to thank the commentator for out session, Bertram Gordon, for his comments, as well as the suggestions of my departmental colleagues Jeffrey Brown and R. Steven Turner, and the anonymous reviewers for French Politics, Culture & Society. I would also like to thank my research assistant Leah Irvine for her help in locating and assessing reviews of Andre Siegfried's books. Research for this article was funded with the generous support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
(2.) Oscar Handlin, "Dangerous Friend," Commentary 21, 3 (March 1956), 290-91.
(3.) David McLellan, "Two French Views of America," American Quarterly 7, 1 (1955), 58, 65.
(4.) Clarke Irwin, review of Siegfried, America at Mid-Century in Time, 12 June 1955, 100.
(5.) See Pierre Birnbaum, "La France aux Francais": Histoire des haines nationalistes (Paris: Seuil, 1993), 145-86; Gerard Noiriel, Les Origines republicaines de Vichy (Paris: Hachette, 1999), 254-61; Zeev Sternhell, Ni droite ni gauche: L'Ideologie fasciste en France, 3rd ed. (Brussels: Complexe, 2000), 23-43. For an interpretation that emphasizes the heritage of fin-de-siecle racial thought in shaping Siegfried's views, see Caroline Reynaud Paligot, "Andre Siegfried et la question raciale," Societes et representations 20 (2005): 269-85.
(6.) Pascal Orys "From Baudelaire to Duhamel: An Unlikely Antipathy," in The Rise and Fall of Anti-Americanism, ed. Denis Lacorne, Jacques Rupnik, and Marie-France Toinet, trans. Gerald Turner (London: Macmillan, 1990), 43; Bernadette Galloux-Fournier, "Un regard sur l'Amerique: Voyageurs francais aux Etats-Unis, 1919-1939," Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine 37 (1990), 314; and Gerard Fabre, "Passeur ou passager? Ideologie et connaissance de l'international dans les travaux nord-americains d'Andre Siegfried (1906-1937)," Sociologie et societes 37 (2005), 209-34.
(7.) Paul Gagnon, "French Views of the Second American Revolution," French Historical Studies 2 (1962): 430-49; David Strauss, Menace in the West: The Rise of French Anti-mericanism (Westport: Greenwood, 1978), 179-81, 183-84; and Donald Roy Allen, French Views of America in the 1930s (New York: Garland, 1979), 69-70, 106-107, 265-66.
(8.) Richard Kuisel, Seducing the French: The Dilemma of Americanization (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 119-20; Jean-Philippe Mathy, Extreme-Occident: French Intellectuals and America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 20-22, 142-43, 145-46; Victoria de Grazia, Irresistible Empire: America's Advance through Twentieth-Century Europe (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005), 103-104, 154; Barry Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin, Hating America: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 66-67, 140-42.
(9.) Philippe Roger, Reves et cauchemars americains: Les Etats-Unis au miroir de l'opinion publique francaise (1945-1953) (Villeneuve d'Ascq: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 1996), 13-14.
(10.) Philippe Roger, L'Ennemi americain: Geneologie de l'antiamericanisme francais (Paris: Seuil, 2002), trans, by Sharon Bowman as The American Enemy: The History of French Anti-Americanism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 179, 203, 214-18, 286-87, 318-20, 360-61,381-83.
(11.) This information is drawn from Siegfried's biography of his father, Jules Siegfried 1837-1922 (Mesnil: Firmin-Didot, 1942).
(12.) Andre Siegfried, Mes souvenirs d'enfance (Bourges: L'Imprimerie Tardy, 1957), 72; for more details about his background see Sean Kennedy, "Situating France: The Career of Andre Siegfried, 1900-1940," Historical Reflections/Reflexions historiques 30, 2 (2004), 184-86.
(13.) Archives du Musee Social (hereafter AMS), folder "Andre Siegfried--texts," transcript entitled "Ce que croient nos contemporains," n.d., interview with Siegfried, quotation on 32.
(14.) Siegfried, Mes souvenirs d'enfance, 32-33.
(15.) Jean Pommier, Notice sur la vie et les travaux d'Andre Siegfried (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1961), 6; Siegfried, preface to Anton Reithinger, Le Visage economique de l'Europe, trans. Claude Bourdet (Paris: Payot, 1937), 5.
(16.) See, for example, the obituary by George Kish in the Geographical Review 50, 2 (1960), 287-88.
(17.) Roger, American Enemy, 209-13, quotation on 211; for Siegfried's activities at the Ecole Libre see Philip Nord, "Reform, Conservation, and Adaptation: Sciences-Po, from the Popular Front to the Liberation," in The Jacobin Tradition in Modern France: Essays in Honour of Vincent Wright, ed. Sudhir Hazareesingh (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 115-46.
(18.) For a discussion of Siegfried's intellectual influences see Fabre, "Passeur ou passager?" 213-20; the reference to 'ethnic personalities' is from Andre Siegfried, Tableau politique de la France de l'Ouest (Paris: Imprimerie