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

By David Strauss | Go to book overview

chapter 4
The Anti-Americans

All of our writers are going to America and-- happily--returning. Each, in turn, wants to help us discover her.

-- Europe Nouvelle, 1930

After my return to Paris, I became aware that to be in fashion, one must criticize America.

-- Paul Hazard, 1931

The French image of America in the twenties was altered in response to three categories of events: broad changes in the world order, the evolution of diplomatic and cultural relations between France and America, and revolutionary developments within American society. The impact of these changes on French intellectuals stemmed in part from the character of the events and in part from the predispositions of the individuals who experienced and articulated them. While there is no simple formula for gauging the beliefs of intellectuals, they are reflected, however imperfectly, in such personal factors as political affiliation; they are also the product of educational background, taken in the broadest sense. In assessing these influences, it is essential to distinguish between the leaders and the followers of the anti-American movement. The backgrounds of those individuals who played a major role in articulating the new image must be assessed with special care.

It would be tempting to assume that the rising hostility to the United States in France was the product of the ignorance, hasty reactions, and radical political beliefs of French commentators. Yet,

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