Menace in the West: The Rise of French Anti-Americanism in Modern Times

By David Strauss | Go to book overview

chapter 15
The Roosevelt Revolution: French Observers and the New Deal

During the decade following World War I, a careful observer might well have feared the spiritual secession of America from European civilization. Certain New World countries, after establishing their political independence and reasonable autonomy in the economic sphere, apparently dreamed of abandoning completely western civilization in order to seek a new destiny. . . . Since the onset of economic disorder, this threat has lost much of its force.

-- Georges Duhamel, 1937

"The stereotypes which nourished opinion up to 1940 and which condition the whole process of later Americanization," remarked Cyrille Arnavon, can be attributed to "the writings of French travelers returning from America" between the wars.1 Indeed, the influence of the anti-American views of the twenties on French observers of the New Deal and post-World War IIAmerica was decisive. The work of Georges Duhamel, André Siegfried, and other authorities of the twenties provided an orientation to America for French travelers during the next twenty years.

The new observers of America, however, lacked the conviction of their predecessors. The clarity and emphasis which had been given to the American image by critics in the twenties seemed inappropriate to the new travelers. They were particularly uneasy about the unqualified opposition which their predecessors had perceived between the American and French ways of life. As Pierre Lyautey, a French observer of the thirties, put it, "The mistake of our reporters

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