Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Anti-Americanism

The term "anti-Americanism" developed during the Cold War period and was regularly used in public, political, and academic discourses. It refers to an encompassing critique and rejection of various aspects of American foreign and domestic policies. In those parts of the world that were within the American sphere of influence during the Cold War, anti-Americanism was expressed by collective entities such as intellectuals, political parties, religious groups, and, at times, ruling elites. In communist or nonaligned nations, by contrast, anti-Americanism was usually part and parcel of official state propaganda.

Anti-Americanism as a concept of historical and contemporary analysis, however, is not an uncontested one, and many authors have noted the dangers of the politically biased usage of the term. Anti-Americanism should be placed in a broader context and understood in terms of the American sense of exceptionalism, anti-European sentiments in the United States, and finally the allure of communist regimes such as those in the Soviet Union, Cuba, and the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Cold War anti-Americanism in Western Europe drew on older criticisms and rejection of the United States as a political, socioeconomic, and cultural model, although America's status as a world superpower after 1945 only reinforced these sentiments. In political terms, anti-Americanism corresponded with the diminution of West European power on a global level, due not only to the Cold War constellation but also to the end of the colonial era in which European powers such as France and Britain had been major players. In cultural terms, anti-Americanism resulted from the rapid and pervasive Americanization of West European societies and their economies in the aftermath of World War II. Criticized by some historians as American cultural imperialism, the American model for modernization was often lambasted for its overreliance on individualism and glorification of mass consumerism and attendant homogeneity.

Anti-Americanism was particularly strong within the political Left in Western Europe, especially in countries such as France and Italy. It interacted with a preference toward socialist or communist models of modernization, along Soviet, Maoist, or Trotskyist lines. This was at times actively supported by communist regimes, in particular the Soviet Union and China. Leftist anti-Americanism became increasingly widespread during the 1960s in the context of escalation of the Vietnam War. In the 1970s, however, East-West détente had been translated into arms limitation agreements and peaceful coexistence, which tended to take the wind out of the sails of anti-Americanism among the West European Left.

Anti-Americanism outside Europe frequently reflected and accelerated trends that predated the Cold War. In the nonaligned world, particularly Latin America, widespread animosity toward the United States across various strata of society frequently represented a reaction to American economic and military hegemony and exploitation that manifested itself well before 1945. Events of the Cold War that conformed to preexisting perceptions of the nature of American foreign policy, such as the 1954 CIA-backed coup in Guatemala, American opposition to Fidel Castro, or efforts by President Ronald Reagan's administration to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, both reinforced and fueled anti-Americanism.

Even in Canada, traditionally a close American ally, the anti-Americanism that existed there was based on pre–Cold War concerns about American economic and cultural domination. Perceived American injustices, such as the Vietnam War, only served to reignite these feelings.

Maud Bracke and Steven Hewitt


Further Reading
Granatstein, J. L. Yankee Go Home? Canadians and Anti-Americanism. Toronto: HarperCollins, 1996.; Hollander, Paul. Anti-Americanism: Critiques at Home and Abroad, 1965–1990. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.; Lacorne, David, Jacques Rupnik, and Marie-France Toinet, eds. The Rise and Fall of Anti-Americanism: A Century of French Perception. London: Macmillan, 1990.
 

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