Yes, I have visited the US many times and I have many American friends. There is much that I like in America and it would be stupid to reduce it to Disneyland or to the commercial Hollywood sub-culture. However, it is also true that I have been very critical of the US, though my criticisms have never been inspired by any kind of French chauvinism. (I am a bad French patriot, and many of my criticisms of the US could also be directed against France). This again could be the subject of a very long discussion. Let me just mention a few points.
First, I believe that in the future Europe and the US will gradually part ways. Their interests are not the same, and I think they will become more and more divergent. With the end of the communist system, “Atlanticism” does not mean much any more, even if Europe is still unable or unwilling to organize itself appropriately.
Second, I disagree with the importance of American influence in the world (whether it is growing or slowly diminishing is another matter).
I am not against foreign influences, but I do not want these influences reduced to only one, and they will have to be reciprocated. A predicament such as today’s, when American films, songs, TV programs and so on constitute more than the half of what can be heard and seen throughout the world, while foreign productions represent almost nothing in America, is clearly not normal. To defend this situation in terms of the laws of the market is to resort to myth.
The market reflects power relations: it does not select what is best but what is strongest. (Believing that the strongest is the best is Social Darwinism, and one of the bases of racism.) But it is not just a problem of mass media. Economic, political and military influences are also a fact. The US would never accept a European intervention in Nicaragua. Yet it considers it normal to make war on Iraq and to keep ships in the Mediterranean. To use one of Carl Schmitt’s expressions, it is time for Europe to have its own Monroe Doctrine.
Thirdly, there is the problem of the nature of the US political, social and “psychological” system. Obviously I have profound sympathies for the principle of federalism as originally envisioned (while the US was being created before its subsequent distortion). At the same time, however, I think the US has always had great difficulty: understanding what Schmitt calls the essence of politics — especially the fact that it cannot be reduced to (or limited by) morals or economics.
From that viewpoint, I remain to be convinced that the most celebrated works of the Founding Fathers have much political relevance. I do not believe that men “are born free and equal,” and I am not interested in the “pursuit of happiness”! US foreign policy, often has been disastrous, mainly because of its inability to understand the existence of the external world. George Washington’s farewell speech gave rise to isolationism, while the myth of “Manifest Destiny” legitimated all kinds of interventionism. But isolationism and interventionism are only two sides of the same universalism, i.e., the conviction that the American system is the best and only possible one throughout the world.
I do not believe that the US is a “free country,” a new Promised Land or an example to be emulated by everyone. In domestic politics, the two-party system seems more like a one-party system with two main factions. . .
There are too many spin-doctors, televangelists and Sunday school preachers in American politics. You say that “the hegemonic plans” of the US “are nothing but a cultural extension and development of the best of European culture.” Well . . . After all, most Founding Fathers considered European culture simply evil — an evil they had to leave behind in order to create a New World. I do not like this WASP hegemony. It is too filled with morals and economics, while lacking consideration for the poor.
I do not like “Bible and business.” I detest this puritan heritage, which forbids the normal expression of feelings, turns everything into a “problem” (“What’s your problem?”), reduces daily life to using set formulas for solving these problems (how-to books, programs, etc.) and seems to forbid normal relations between the sexes. Frankly, there is something hysterical in the Prohibition of yesteryear and in today’s campaigns against smoking, sexual harassment, sexual abuses, etc. The same goes for economics. I dislike the capitalist logic of exclusion, I do not believe in the virtues of the market and of a market society. I dislike the obsession with efficiency (efficiency for what? at which price?), the myth of winners, the view of life as competitive and as the permanent pursuit of one’s best interest, the approach to cultural creations as pure commercial products.
I do not want to be a winner.
I am not interested in making money . . .
Of course, this does not prevent me from seeing the other side of the coin. I love Steinbeck, Melville and Edgar A. Poe. As a teenager I was in awe of American movies, at a time when cinema was still an art. Today I greatly appreciate the work of people such as Christopher Lasch, Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Sandel, Robert Bellah (and, of course, Telos, which sometimes looks more European than American). But these may be premature judgments.