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America in the Eyes of the Germans: An Essay on Anti-Americanism Paperback – April 18, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 169 pages
  • Publisher: Markus Wiener Pub; English Language Ed edition (April 18, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558761055
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558761056
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,692,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author presents a short history of a rather complex idea that began around the year 1800. Though the United States was often viewed by the people of Germany as a land of opportunity, a portion of the intelligentsia, with which this book is principally concerned, tended to see the U.S. as the home of greedy hypocrites estranged from and envious of all higher culture. From the beginning of the Romantic period and throughout all the turnings of German history to the end of the Cold War, this theme was embellished differently in each era, but its essence remained remarkably unchanged. Diner has written a popularization of the subject for the nonprofessional reader, but the book is also valuable for presenting ideas that are not usually part of the political and cultural discourse concerning the U.S. The ideas are sometimes made murky by the translator, who unfortunately has retained too much of the phrasing and style of the original German, but the author's outlook remains accessible. It is of particular interest now that the former Iron Curtain countries have begun looking to Germany rather than to the U.S. as the model upon which to rebuild their societies. Foreword by Sander Gilman and illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Anti-Americanism is not an exclusively German phenomenon. But the German version tends to lead to contempt for and underestimation of the Americans... The merit of this book lies in revealing the disastrous results of anti-Americanism for Germany's history.... a provocative study." -- Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

"In his brilliant and refreshingly polemical essay, German-Israeli historian Dan Diner argues that the European consciousness uses America as a metaphor for the dark sides of modernism. The United States represents the negative counterpart to all West European societies, but the author finds an especially aggressive variant of this negative judgment in Germany, the roots of which he traces back to the Romantic period. The Romantics originated the idea of a fundamental difference between true "culture" [allegedly characteristic of German society] and mere "civilization" [allegedly characteristic of societies to the west of Germany], which has had a normative role in German intellectual and political history.... In this scheme of thinking, America stands for money, interests, and the stock exchange.... Anti-Americanism is a constant indicator for a German ongoing attempt to pull away from the West." --North German Broadcasting Corp.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Thomas J. Cassidy on October 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
Dan Diner's history of German anti-Americanism is an eye-opener to the first-time reader. The history of such an irrational phenomenon - it didn't begin in World War I - makes for a "sidebar" history of some interesting psychological underpinnings of a normally rational set. Like the ugliest of garden weeds, this has some deep roots hard to get out.

The one or two awkward translation questions mentioned in above reviews were simple cases of choice of words. I find Diner's work highly readable and informative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By FrugalDutchman on April 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In this work on the nature of anti-Americanism in Germany, Diner argues that we need to distinguish between blind cultural contempt and more legitimate cultural criticism. He writes that we have to "acknowledge critical ideology of America" in order to change it. (12) Still, this is more difficult said than done. Ideological hatred of the U.S. and plain criticism often overlap. Diner works to sort out the two.

Accordingly, anti-American is a deeper worry about the loss of values and traditions. The United States has been a scapegoat, in his opinion, for the loss of culture due to modernization. The American keeps Europe in suspense, and helps Europeans form their identities. For Germany, the U.S. is often presented as a model of German future to be avoided.

In traces the antecedents of German anti-Americanism Diner reaches back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with Romanticism and the Enlightenment. Both of these developments had there own particular methods of disparaging America. Romanticism, Diner states, was the "main workshop for ideas of America." (31) It created imagined ideals of the new world. These ideals were not justification by fact or study, but taken at face value. The enlightenment critique, although less conservative than that of the Romanticists, attacked America for its irrationality.

Both ideologies were found more strongly in the upper class, and anti-Americanism has naturally maintained itself among elites. Anti-Americanism developed largely in 1800-1850 as a reaction to the bourgeois and to capitalism. The pro-American liberal revolutionaries were then defeated in the 1848 revolutions. Many afterwards immigrated to the U.S.
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By Albert Rio on December 11, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
first, it is very short, this issue can be treated more exhaustively

and second, this is a really strange translation, there are many typos!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Anne Dickens on August 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
Oh, haven't we heard this all before? Perhaps, the fact that many scholars from the USA and Israel, either do not know, do not view, or omit the fact, that Early Romanticism was a unique period in German history, merely belie their own fascination and nationalistic adherence to aspects of Middle and Late German Romantic thought. Perhaps the present author under discussion has neither read, nor absorbed the works of the pre-eminent scholar of Early Romanticism, Dr. Manfred Frank (University of Tubingen)? In light of WW2, seventy-something years ago, one can well understand Jewish cultural bias toward all things German; however, real scholarship should reveal truth and not be completely blinded by past injustice. Furthermore, instead of rehashing discussions of Nazism and anti-Democratic thought in pre- and WW2 Germany, scholars from the USA and Israel would do the world a great service by writing critically about historical and political events in their own countries, e.g., problems regarding the separation of church and state, Christian evangelism and messianic Judaism, tyranny, exceptionalism and their global effects.

Now that would indeed be refreshing and, moreover, relevant.

S. Dickey
Cambridge, MA
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harry Eagar VINE VOICE on July 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Germans hate dollars. Not enough to refuse them. Probably they feel dirty after accepting one, like a preacher after a visit to the whorehouse, but they force themselves to do it, anyway.

So instead of hating themselves for accepting the dollars, they hate the Americans for giving them to them.

That's my explanation, anyway, and it fits easily enough into Israeli-German political scientist Dan Diner's more nuanced and evolutionary explanation.

Diner was inspired to write his polemic by the hatred of America unleashed by Gulf War I. He traced it back to an entirely different matter in the early 19th century. For him, America -- not any very real America, but a symbol -- was the convenient whipping boy for Romantics who were upset by the modernization of Germany and the decay of familiar hierarchical social relations.

He notes, of course, that this was a feeling hardly shared by German peasants and workers, who escaped to America when they could. Anti-Americanism was a phenomenon of religious, academic and social elites. In Germany, that included a lot of "vons."

I think Americans underestimate how much monarchism and aristocratism still resonate in Europe even in the 21st century. It was even more so in the recent past. Most of Hitler's generals were not radical street fighters jumped up by the revolution of 1933. They were Prussian barons.

As Diner traces German anti-Americanism, it of course gets conflated with anti-Semitism. Anything a German despises -- whether it is worthy of being despised or not -- will sooner or later (usually sooner) be blamed on the Jews.
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