The American Enemy: The History of French Anti-Americanism

In This Review

The American Enemy: The History of French Anti-Americanism

By Philippe Roger. Translated by Sharon Bowman
University of Chicago Press, 2005
536 pp. $35.00
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Roger, a French cultural historian, has written a doubly invaluable book. It is an exhaustive history of a phenomenon that, as he shows, has existed in France since the days of the eighteenth-century philosopher-scientist Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, to the present. And it is written with enough subtlety, complexity, and awareness of how anti-Americanism is an expression of French beliefs, myths, and fears about France to make it quite unnecessary for anyone else to revisit this territory. French writers have seen in the United States the triumph of the inhumanity of machine civilization, the evils of capitalism and exploitation, anonymous and soulless cities -- a homogenizing steamroller that crushes human diversity. Many of the authors whom Roger dissects have had considerable influence in France, but many others have not, and he neglects the other half of the story: the profound influence of American literature, social science, and popular culture on France in the second half of the twentieth century, as well as that of French writers (Raymond Aron, for example) who admired the United States. Still, this is a brilliantly instructive book.