Politics of Anti-Americanism
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 October 2020
- LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2020
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0186
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 October 2020
- LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2020
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0186
Academic, popular, and political inquiry into the nature, origins, and consequences of anti-Americanism rose after the terrorist attacks against the United States on 11 September 2001. Prior to 9/11, anti-Americanism had received attention from scholars and policymakers, but not consistently, and not in a manner readily available to the public. The US State Department, for instance, had commissioned polls and published reports on foreign attitudes toward the United States beginning in the 1950s, but many of these documents remain hard to access outside the US National Archives. Following 9/11, however, a flood of polls was widely disseminated for free by several organizations, including the Pew Research Center. News media also generated significant coverage on anti-Americanism, and it became a topic of discussion among world leaders, particularly surrounding the outbreak of the Iraq War in 2003. Critical investigation of anti-Americanism therefore surged after 2001, with a crest in scholarship at the close of the decade, and something of a resurgence after the election of US president Donald J. Trump. Central to this scholarship are five questions: How is anti-Americanism defined and measured? Does anti-Americanism originate from what the United States is, from its values and culture? Or does it originate from what the United States does, from its policies and actions abroad? What effect, if any, does anti-Americanism have for the United States and other actors? Lastly, what is the nature and origin of anti-Americanism within the United States, looking at home-grown movements and ideologies? These questions have been explored using increasingly complex social science research methods and data from polling organizations, such as Pew. Because these polling organizations have hisorically focused predominately on European and Middle Eastern publics, however, there has been comparatively little on other parts of the globe. At the same time, most polls focus predominately on attitudes toward the United States among foreign publics, not foreign elites. Yet scholars and policymakers require a better sense of what foreign elites think and feel to understand more clearly how foreign governments interact with the United States. Moreover, given that the study of anti-Americanism tends to be episodic (e.g., it soared after 9/11, subsided under Barack Obama, and then increased following the election of Donald Trump), longitudinal studies are needed to interpret complexities over time. Additionally, although survey data are relatively abundant on foreign perceptions of the United States, another step forward in this research agenda would be to include a systematic comparative analysis of global attitudes not just toward America, but also other great powers, like China, India, Brazil, and Russia. This would herald a larger field of study that explores not only anti-American sentiment, but also “anti–great power” sentiment.
Defining and Measuring Anti-Americanism
One body of scholarship seeks to define and measure anti-Americanism. In terms of definitions, Hollander 1995 and Revel 2004 suggest anti-Americanism is irrational, based on how foreign publics project their insecurities onto the United States at a given moment. Buruma 2005 takes a broader approach and couches anti-Americanism within a historical framework of anti-Westernism (i.e., Occidentalism). Perhaps the most detailed approach is found in Katzenstein and Keohane 2007, which argues that people can experience different types of anti-Americanism simultaneously based on how they perceive and update their beliefs about the United States and its leadership over time. Katzenstein and Keohane therefore proffer the term “anti-Americanisms” as more accurate than the singular “anti-Americanism.” In terms of measuring anti-Americanism, Kohut and Stokes 2006 and Holsti 2008 synthesize recent trends in public opinion data on attitudes toward US leaders, US foreign policies, and the American people.
Buruma, Ian. Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies. London: Penguin, 2005.
Argues that anti-Americanism exemplifies resentment against the West overall (i.e., Occidentalism). Traces the history of Occidentalism over two centuries.
Hollander, Paul. Anti-Americanism: Irrational and Rational. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1995.
Attributes anti-Americanism to bias and irrational prejudice against the United States and its core values.
Holsti, Ole. To See Ourselves as Others See Us: How Publics Abroad View the United States after 9/11. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008.
Skillfully utilizes public opinion data from the Pew Research Center to argue that the Iraq War, human rights violations, and US foreign policy have driven anti-Americanism. An excellent assessment of several decades of public opinion polls.
Katzenstein, Peter J., and Robert O. Keohane, eds. Anti-Americanisms in World Politics. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007.
This edited volume synthesizes several years of discussion about anti-Americanism among academics. Conceptualizes anti-Americanism as a multifaceted phenomenon based on how foreign publics evaluate the values and policies of the United States. The first chapter provides an in-depth, detailed typology of anti-American sentiment. Subsequent chapters provide valuable case studies of anti-Americanism in France, China, and the Arab world.
Kohut, Andrew, and Bruce Stokes. America against the World: How We Are Different and Why We Are Disliked. New York: Times Books, 2006.
Synthesizes data from the Pew Research Center and characterizes trends in public opinion data, from 9/11 to the present. Focuses on how the values and attitudes of Americans differ from those of other publics (especially in Europe and the Middle East) and how that might explain anti-American sentiment over time.
Meunier, Sophie. “Anti-Americanisms in France.” French Politics, Culture & Society 23.2 (2005): 126–141.
Identifies shades of French anti-Americanism as “sovereignist” anti-Americanism (regret over France’s loss of great power status), legacy anti-Americanism (resentment built up against the United States over two centuries), liberal anti-Americanism (charges that US foreign policy is hypocritical), elitist anti-Americanism (a patronizing elitist critique of America), nostalgic anti-Americanism (that France was better before its “Coca-Colonization”), social anti-Americanism (America’s unequal society), and radical Muslim anti-Americanism.
Revel, Jean-François. Anti-Americanism. San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2004.
A French journalist’s defense of the United States after 9/11, arguing European public attitudes toward America are irrational, stemming from European insecurity.
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