The Rise of Anti-Americanism

The Rise of Anti-Americanism

The Rise of Anti-Americanism

The Rise of Anti-Americanism

Synopsis

Is anti-Americanism one of the last respectable prejudices, or are accusations of anti-Americanism a way to silence reasonable criticism of the United States? Is the recent rise in anti-Americanism principally a reaction to President George W. Bush and his administration, or does it reflect a general turn against America and Americans? Have we moved from the American century to the anti-American century, with the United States as the ‘whipping boy’ for a growing range of anxieties? Can the United States recapture the international good will generally extended towards it in the days following 11 September 2001? These key questions are tackled by this new book, which offers the first comprehensive overview of anti-Americanism in the twenty-first century. Examining what is sensibly called anti-Americanism and its principal sources, this study details how the Bush administration has provoked a recent upsurge in anti-Americanism with its stances on a range of issues from the Kyoto Protocol to the war in Iraq. However, the spread of anti-Americanism reflects deeper cultural and political anxieties about Americanization and American global power that will persist beyond the Bush administration. At the heart of much of the recent anti-Americanism is opposition in the Middle East, and elsewhere, to US support of Israel. This crucial issue is explored in depth as is the associated claim of a ‘clash of civilizations’ between Islam and the West and the rise of anti-American terrorism. This book will be of great interest to all students and scholars of American Studies, International Relations and Politics.

Excerpt

Anti-Americanism remains an elusive phenomenon, despite the widespread use of the term, and the common perception that it signifies what George Orwell would have called an increasing ‘tendency’ in public discourse. Nonetheless, like so many words and phrases that litter the contemporary landscape of political commentary (think of ‘globalization’ or ‘Islamic fundamentalism’), the term is a clumsy attempt to describe a rising sensibility whose contours and causes are the subject matter of this book. The term itself is composed of two words, the first meaning ‘against’ and the second, well, therein lies a problem. If one could identify a movement, ideology or even a vague set of beliefs to bring some order to the term ‘Americanism’, then it would be relatively easy to identify its opposite. In their absence, defining anti-Americanism is a difficult exercise. Nonetheless, the term is part of our vocabulary and we need to have some way of grasping its meaning and significance in the highly charged debates that surround the role of the United States in the world.

Rather than define the term by its substance, anti-Americanism is more usefully understood as an attitude towards the United States that both refuses to be deterred in its judgement by doubt or the acknowledgement of complexity, and which subscribes to what Brian Fawcett (in his reflections on Noam Chomsky) calls ‘a Standard Total View (STV) of the United States as a demonic purveyor of more or less total evil’. Thus mere opposition to American policies is not sufficient to constitute anti-Americanism, which contains an emotional element of anger or resentment. Moreover, anti-Americanism can be motivated by completely opposed points of view: for example, dislike of America because it is ‘overly religious’, or because it is ‘overly secular’. In short, anti-Americanism is a disposition or sensibility rather than a substantive set of beliefs or arguments. It should also be noted that one person’s reasonable criticism of the United States is another person’s anti-Americanism. Anti-Americanism is both a descriptive and a pejorative term. It is rightly used to describe hatred of America and often misused by its critics to dismiss genuine criticisms of the United States. Thus a key issue is how to distinguish criticism based on anti-Americanism from criticism based on other grounds. Genuine anti-Americanism implies an across-the-board abhorrence of American politics, culture and people. Such a breadth of antipathy is a tall order given the diversity of American society.

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