Thursday, 22 October 2009

Hating America

Why do people hate America?
Much has been written on this topic- but little that is illuminating.
In my view, post-War America offered a very radical solution to the problems of the old world. This had to do with disintermediating the National Bourgeoisies of reconstruced or newly constructed Nations. Since, at that time, America as the champion of Free Enterprise and traditional Enlightenment ideas, was expected to be the saviour of the educated middle classes, it comes a quite a puzzle to find that the opposite was the case. I believe, this little recognised fact is responsible for the institutionalisation of Anti-Americanism in post-war client countries and its re-export from the U.S and other Western countries by emigre academics and intellectuals.
What lies at the source of the post-War American disdain for National Bourgeoisies?
I think, the cause lies in the fact that Americans had never developed a homegrown Romantic ideology. The Americans did not have a Bildungsburgertum whose road to class power was a Romantic identification- or projection of their own anxieties and frustrations- even their disappointments in love- onto a grand National canvass. There was never an American 'Sorrows of Werther'. The notion of an American 'Devdas' is utterly ludicrous. The closest the Americans came to such a concept was with Santayana's 'the last Puritan'- but Santayana emigrated to Europe, he represented the path the American middle class did not take. Henry James might also be mentioned in this context- but his thinking fits less easily into the classic Romantic mould which is based on the frustrations and wounded amour propre of the educated middle class.
The consequence of American repudiation of Romanticism was that, later on, on achieving World Mastery, Americans would have no truck with the wounded sensibilities, muddled thinking and histrionic posturing of the National Bourgeoisies of emerging or reconstituted nations. In this they departed from the rules of Great Power Politics which had admitted Romantic Nationalism as a force to be reckoned with- albeit as an infantile disease- and which needed to be soothed and placated and ultimately harnessed to the greater goal of maintaining the balance of power.
The Americans, however, pointed out that the Balance of Power had failed utterly. It had precipitated a World Wide bloodbath not once but twice in a single generation. Furthermore, National Bourgeoises- including the Germans the French and so on- had utterly failed in their self-proclaimed world historic mission as carriers of Enlightenment values. Thus the Americans were in no mood to pander to the succeptibilites of Romantic Nationalists.
This, however, created a curious contradiction- a paradoxical situation- whereby it was Stalin and his successors who championed the National Bourgeoisies and pandered to their chauvinistic shibboleths even against local Communist cadres. The American disdain of National Bourgeoises went hand in hand with the truly new, the truly revolutionary weapon in their intellectual arsenal- namely their repudiation of the law of diminishing returns- which in Classical economics- predicts increasing class conflict as the inevitable price of Growth. In other words, if the management of class conflict ceased to be the main business of Politics then the Middle Class had no special status, no priviliged dialectical relationship with the destiny of the nation.
 Unlike the Soviets, with their spurious statistics, the Americans genuinely represented (at that time) a mode of production with increasing returns- not diminishing returns. They alone could afford both guns and butter and, what's more, teach others to gain the same. But this meant class conflict was bound to vanish in line with the 'Kuznets curve' which yielded greater rather less income equality thru the 50's and 60's. In other words, the Americans had found a way of doing without- of marginalising- the middle class. The advisors they sent out proposed truly radical changes- e.g. land reform to directly empower the peasant to boost agriculural productivity and set off a virtuous circle of economic growth. Their answer to the problem of manufacturing industry was similarly ground-breaking. It involved the adoption of a rational, meritocratic Corporate Culture which would consign traditional concepts of class and status to the dung-heap of history. Thus, like Henry Ford, the Americans were telling their clients that History was bunk. The shibboleths and irredentist claims and so on that the National Bourgeiosie termed 'sacred causes' were nothing of the sort. They were senile ravings- nothing more.
The National Bourgeoises of client states were particularly affected by this aspect of American policy. They, who most craved American attention, were told in no uncertain terms that their vapouring and posturing was merely a senile affliction and had no connection with the 'soul' or the 'destiny' of the countries they claimed to lead.
The American denial of the concept of the Balance of Power had the corollary that guaranteeing the nuetrality of small powers was no longer a Great Power responsibility. Dulles quoted St. Paul to client states saying bluntly- 'if you're not with us you're against us.' Fair enough, we might think, if the Americans had also been 'all things to all men' In other words if they had taken the trouble to understand the wounded amour propre, the damaged National psyches of the middle classes in the client states. The Americans refused to play that game. They were'nt going to play nanny to senile delinquents.
Again fair enough, if it had stopped there. But the Americans, from the McCarthyite era onwards, went a step further.They required the National Bourgeoises of their client states to sacrifice their 'pinko' poets and playwrights and journalists- send them to jail or into exile. But, the National Bourgeoisies needed precisely this type of 'Narodnik' populist to build bridges to the masses and thus shore up their own sense of security, of being in charge. Thus, clienthood to America meant that the National Bourgeoises felt cut off from the Masses. Another feature of American policy was their belief that no man was indispensable- they could get rid of a local strong-man and replace him, for some cosmetic reason, with a nonentity without rocking the boat. The consequences for the National Bourgeoises were catastrophic- they no longer knew to whom to kow tow to. The leadership in client states also responded to this increased uncertainty by cutting themselves off from the people. The basic notion of consultative govenrment was undermined because in the end the American Ambassador called the shots.
America, which logically should have been the champion of the National Bourgeioises, turned out to be their fiercest enemy. The increased insecurity and sense of worthlessness experienced by middle class people in client states ultimately took the form of hatred. When the master is capricious (not cruel) when his reasoning is opaque to you, when there is no chance of a dialogue, the only way to preserve your psychic integrity is to hate.
Still, I think, if client states had fully taken advantage of American know-how, of radical American thinking on social engineering, they would have been better of in the 50''s and 60's. However, by the beginning of the '70's  perceptions changed. The age of increasing returns was felt to be over. There was a resource crunch at the planetary level. The Club of Rome warned that many client states were basket-cases. America needed to disengage. Infinite prosperity was no longer on the table.
At the same time structual changes in the U.S economy- the change in the nature and the ethos of the American business corporation- together with an ever increasing signal extraction problem with respect to American foreign policy- too many Agencies and intrest groups having a say in foreign policy- gravely compounded the problems of the National Bourgeoisies. The doubt has been sown in people's minds that engagement with America means locking oneself into an operating system whose licensing fee will becomong increasingly unaffordable. The terms of trade are shifting against you. Perhaps, your only way to survive is through emigration to the West! But, emigration raises the danger of assimilation- of losing your National ethos and your status as a 'cultured' Bildungsburgertum. What on earth are you to do? Not everybody can write books like Ziaudding Sardar or Mohsin and so on. Some people are going to chuck bombs.
The American War on Terror- which on the face of it appears justifiable- has a sort of system effect, a sociological dimension which American analysts have not picked up on. This has to do with it being the culmination, the final round, of their curiously step-motherly treatment of their natural allies- viz. the National Bourgeoisies of client or ex-client states.
What is the solution? Well, presumably, the Americans have to go back to the old style of Great Power Politics based on minutiae of the Balance of Power and an exhausting diaolgue with Romantic Nationalists.
But, this means that International Politics is closed for Presidential grandstanding. Not here, not in this arena, can President's carve their legacy.
Ultimately, people learn to love that which they can predict. They grow to hate that which they do not understand. When no Beltway insider can predict what America's next move is in (let us say) Pakistan how on earth is the middle class professional in Karachi supposed to feel next time he sees his neighborhood go up in flames?
America needs to speak to the world with one voice, to be predictable in its actions, to pursue long-term relationships not ideological chimeras or 'wag the dog' Media circuses.
The revolving door between State and the Think Tanks and Universities has played a part in destabilizing people's perceptions of America's intentions.
However, to conclude, nothing can justify terrorism or mindless Anti-Americanism. On the contrary, the Americans did offer something new to the world in the 50's and 60's when they offered to export knowledge for free. Whether it still has something to offer- now that intellectual property commands the highest price tag- is a question only a competent economist could answer. 


  1. A really impressive post. It reminds me of the white nationalist Francis Parker Yockey's quixotic career. Although an extreme far-right pro-nazi fascist, he thought his politics (which were those, I suppose, of a Romantic national bourgeois, albeit of a radical stripe) would best be pursued in alliance with the Soviet Union against the United States. Paradoxical is exactly the right word for this weird situation in which the Soviet Union is a more reliable ally of nationalistic movements.

    I'd be curious to hear more of your thoughts on how and why America developed this way. Wouldn't the American Renaissance (Emerson, Whitman, etc.) count as a homegrown Romantic movement?

    Eric Kauffman wrote a book called "The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America" which discusses how establishment elites (in a period stretching roughly from 1880-1930) first developed, and then abandoned, an ideology and culture of ethnic nationalism, but after reading it I still don't feel like I have a good handle on the causal factors in this area. I used to think it was merely the inevitable process of technological development ("the managerial revolution", an increase in scale and scope of the economy) but now, as your post here also points out, that looks fairly American-centric, whereas in fact economic development of that kind could be seen as endogenous to these issues of class and ethnicity.

    1. @FredR- I wonder if you have come across the writings of Enoch Powell? Annoyed with U.S meddling in Ireland, he proposed an British Soviet alliance! He was a Romantic Nationalist with a vengeance. But then strange bed-fellows is what Romanticism is about.

    2. I know him from his famous speech and an appearance afterwards on Buckley's "Firing Line", but I had never heard of this episode. Say what you will about Romantic Nationalists, they tend to be more interesting than the bloodless technocrats/careerists you usually are forced to watch on the television.

  2. Thank you for this comment which has opened new vistas for me.
    Yockey sounds a bit like Savitri Devi- a Franco-Greek mathematician who settled in India and helped organize the Indian Nazi Party which laid the foundation for Subash Chandra Bose's hegira to Berlin. It appears that both Yockey and Savitri Devi reacted to the plight of Post-War Germany by deifying Hitler for some unfathomable reason of Cognitive Dissonance- either that or, like Savitri Devi's Indian husband, they were double agents or controlled by double agents in some Byzantine manner.
    Yockey, on the face of it, would repay reading- especially for the Egyptian angle. The Indian view was that some German engineers had got to Nasser with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion whereas official Egyptian anti-Zionism has some extra dimension to it regarding which Yockey, or the tendency represented by Willis Carto, might shed light. The American University in Cairo enjoyed a good reputation with the sort of people who joined the Army and ultimately took power. Thus, to label Nasser as falling for old fashioned Tzarist propaganda rather than something up-to-date, might be misleading and yield little predictive power for analyzing the ongoing situation there.

  3. You ask- 'I'd be curious to hear more of your thoughts on how and why America developed this way. Wouldn't the American Renaissance (Emerson, Whitman, etc.) count as a homegrown Romantic movement?'
    I'm afraid I'm so very ignorant that whatever I say will sound unintentionally funny; so, precisely for that reason, I'll just go ahead and blurt out my impression that whereas the Bildungburgertum of John Adams generation had to cultivate the Puritan virtues- postponing marriage till they had made their pile- like Scrooge- and moreover had a sort of wounded amour propre with respect to the grand Courts of Europe, the Revolutionary Wars and their aftermath brought a sea change in the fortunes of their class. Moreover, American women were by now a step or two ahead of their European sisters in terms of education and self-confidence and this expressed itself in superior mate selection. De Tocqueville praises this unprecedented situation where a woman chooses from a number of suitors, not the one who can provide immediately and most lavishly for the children she will bear him, but the one of best character. Together they depart into the wilderness and raise a family under conditions of rough simplicity until, by and by, the husband is elected to the Senate or sent abroad as an Ambassador at which time the woman will be able to show that her sojourn in the Wilderness hasn't blunted her wits.
    By contrast, the young German had to stay on at University for ten years before securing a job and then ten more years before being in a position to marry. He falls in love with his employer's daughter and is laughed at. He forms a connection with some kitchen Gretchen and is humiliated by the spectacle of the tow headed offspring who follow him about on the streets.

  4. Not that the French had it any better. Their Balzacian struggles to gain a particle to grace their uncouth surnames embitter them and tempt them away from the stern path of the Cenacle. The English, by contrast, were thrown into the deep end at a young age and forced to sink or swim. But, a lot of them ended up in distant lands and couldn't marry their childhood sweetheart, having to make do (as Tennyson tells us) with dusky maidens fit only to breed a savage race. America, on the other hand, conformed to Iron Age cliodynamic demographics. There was an actual ongoing folk-wandering- not its Romantic invocation from the dusty books of Tacitus and Jordanes- aided by technological revolutions, such that the Wagon train into the wilderness yielded, in the space of a life time, Cities with sky-scrapers- like Sinclair Lewis's Zenith- and a remarkable homogeneity of mores and modes of speech.

  5. That this homogeneity would be based on superior WASP reproductive potential was an article of faith for Emerson. He actually believed that the Scandinavian and Irish an other non English speaking immigrants were destined to die in the ditches they dug- enriching the loam or contributing to the underbrush but planting no great oak of a family tree on American soil. The concentration of the politically organized Catholic Irish, or later on the Ashkenazi Jews, in great Cities did not matter because throughout most of History, Cities have a much higher mortality rate- death stalks the ghettos, they are their own final solution. The instinct to flee the inner city, by itself, so it may have been thought, this would be Mankind's collective memory, would be enough to win the demographic war. And so things might have panned out except that WASP America did not keep faith with its women. It turned them into Stepford wives and gin did the rest. 'Momism'- the notion that women were feminizing their boy children- became a more potent threat than 'Racial pollution'- and the flat chested, 'good sport', Hemingway type heroine could not be manufactured fast enough off the assembly line to plug the gap.
    European Romanticism, or Indian Romanticism, is based on the denial to young men of marriage with their sweetheart, their having to make do with Metaphysical sehnsucht. Actually, there was nothing stopping young people- including Sharat Chandra's Devdas- just eloping with their darling by taking an emigrant ship or Railway train but only in America was the psychic cost to the bride minimized. Only there was she considered to have kept rather than lost caste. But technology was driving the WASP woman into a Veblenian leisured parasitism which wasn't what she signed up for. During the 1950's, suddenly Hollywood orchestrates this limbo dance whereby the bar on intelligence is constantly lowered while that on breast size is raised without limit.
    To return to your question- did Emerson and Whitman represent an indigenous American Romanticism? My impression is that Emerson did see himself as having a mediating role along the lines of a typical National Bourgeoisie of a Creole or Comprador pattern. His visit to England, at about the same as Raja Ramohan Roy, presents a hilarious vignette of the lean and courteous Yankee being subjected to the obstreperous boosterism of the morbidly obese English businessman who is anxious to confide to the visitor from across the Atlantic that the new Municipal library in his manufacturing town has more bricks in it that the Venetian campanile and what's more sounder drains.
    No question, the Boston Brahmin type qualifies as a Romantic National Bourgeoisie and had no difficulty co-opting Walt Whitman, but that same Brahmin type produced 'the education of Henry Adams'- i.e. it was capable of a self-awareness, a tragic vision of itself, unparalleled elsewhere. Henry Adams realizes that his own class had torn itself apart in a fraticidal struggle, the basis for which lay more in windy words than the Economic and Technological forces which determined its outcome. In other words, his class had disqualified itself from a mediating role between Labour and Capital or Agrarian and Industrial interests. Perhaps, by reason of their status as rentiers, their crankish theories about the Money supply should still get an airing at the Shareholders Meeting of U.S.A Inc., but Adams himself must have realized that an interest in Renaissance Italy plus an Income from bonds could only yield a paranoid Poundian schwarmerie avant la lettre.

    1. A lot to chew on!

      Benjamin Franklin, in his "Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind..." pointed out that Americans married much earlier because they had a much more favorable ratio of land to population. He also mentions that cities were population sinks. My impression of Emerson is that his views on race/ethnicity were somewhat different. He seemed to believe (following a tradition going back at least to de Crevecouer) that immigrants to America would be somehow both sifted and molded so as to fit comfortably within a homogenous anglo-saxon yeoman culture (the picture that rises to my mind in thinking about this culture is the first of Rockwell's "Four Freedoms"), although I admit his views on the subject (as on many others) were vague and changeable.

      I'm still digesting, but I think I understand the connection you draw between delayed marriage and ethno-nationalistic sublimation. I don't know if its true, but I think I can see how it would fit with the sociobiological literature I've been reading these days (e.g. Geoffrey Miller).

      I suppose, following your reading of Henry Adam's life and letters, that you see the story of the WASP decline as of self-overcoming: they abandon lower ambitions of class and ethnic dominance (given their own political mismanagement in the Civil War, etc.) to instead serve as technocratic middle-management in the big international machine that America became. I can buy this, although on the other hand Adams doesn't seem to have been too pleased with the culture that was inheriting his country. But as you say, his was a tragic vision.

    2. What you say about Emerson is interesting- the notion that the land itself might 'sift and mould' migrant populations into a homogenous yeomanry of Anglo Saxon type. I am reminded of Arthur Koestler's bizarre observation that sabras in Israel were phlegmatic, snub nosed, blondes while the immigrant Zionists looked and talked like Woody Allen. I recall a story by Somerset Maugham about the scion of an Aristocratic British Jewish family who wants to become a concert pianist rather than join the family Merchant Bank. His parents agree to let him pursue this goal for a a couple of years. After that, if he fails to make the grade, he must give up on his ambition. Unfortunately, what the parents had not calculated on was that training in Music involved exposure to the Mitteleurpoean Bohemian ethos from which their own ancestors had emigrated long ago. The young lad reverts to a racial type- he becomes flabby, unclean in a Continental manner and his accent has acquired ambiguities of enunciation hinting at the ghetto and deals in second hand clothing. In other words, the lad's Public School education has been thrown away. He is no longer fit to be displayed in English County Society. Music had brought out his latent Jewishness- his upper lip is no longer properly starched and so he might as well remain on the Continent as a remittance man. The pity of it is that the lad could easily have picked up enough musical education to thump out 'Yes we have no bananas' on the pianoforte- which would have won him an enviable reputation as an arbiter of avant garde taste for the bon ton.
      On the subject of 'delayed marriage and ethno-nationalistic sublimation'- the Christian theology student in Europe had to delay marriage whereas the Polish Jew who showed promise of being a great Rabbi could actually be sold by his father for a lot of money and, what's more, live off his father-in-law, or mother-in-law, like Solomon Maimon- for a period of years. But this benefit ceased to obtain if the young lad chose secular studies over the Talmud creating an asymmetry between Philosophy and Theology for Jews but not Christians.
      In India, Hindu Nationalism had a background of unequal age of marriage- a graduate in his 20's was married off to a 8 or 10 year old child- and this militated for a sort of monastic Revolutionary creed. Aristocratic Muslims, however, tended to marry off teenage boys to their slightly older cousins which made for a more conservative temperament.
      My impression is that sociobiology/cliodynamics doesn't yet take notice of the importance of Grandmothers in reproductive success. Filial piety, of the Chinese sort, tends to mean rule by Grannies because, for evolutionary reasons, they outlive Grandads by a large margin and have the skill set to divert resources to maximally impact reproductive success.

    3. Getting back to the Boston Brahmin type elite- my impression is that they give up National Bourgeoisie status in favor of Elite circulation because of the manner in which different Regional elites become identified with particular forces of production and were supposed to have a special understanding of particular ethnic mixes.
      Civil War, in both England and the U.S, was what destroyed the illusion of Bourgeois omniscience and moral worth. In England the Puritan/Cavalier distinction created a suspicion of Education qua Education- the Tudor Bildungsburgertum had torn itself apart, brother had fought brother- whose effects could still be felt till Tony Blair came along and ruined everything. In America, not Education, it was 'Moral panics' that stood in the dock. Better the reign of corrupt scoundrels than earnest and chivalrous blockheads unless, like Teddy Roosevelt, they invent a larger than life persona and go pick on Hispanics.

  6. Adams comes to the conclusion that the proper education for Public life he ought to have received would be something mathematical- like the Economics of, the engineer, Pareto or the Sociology of, the Criminologist, Tarde- and, in fact, during the Second World War, under the aegis of the RAND Corp, this actually happened. Young men, like Ken Arrow- a working class lad who dreamed of becoming a C.P.A through Night School- helped win the War for the U.S and then to win the Peace too!

  7. It occurs to me that I have not dwelt in this blog post on the aid that American politicians and socialites have given various idiotic causes- Jesse Helms and the Khalistanis comes to mind, but that was a sort of farcical sideshow to 'Charlie Wilson's War'- though, of course, it must be said that some causes weren't idiotic at all- Scoop Jackson better deserved a Tom Hanks film- still, the trouble with Americans is that they actually possess, that too at a collective, an institutional level, the thing we accuse them of lacking- viz. self awareness. They can course-correct. They do course-correct. It feels like betrayal. It isn't. It's what democracies do. National Bourgeoisies hold back Nations, they contribute to social stasis, they are in the business of Credentialism, they are rent-seekers on availability cascades and preference falsification. It is one of our own, the Turkish Economist, Timur Kuran, who is pointing this out to us. We have a chance to get out of the snake pit of Saidian 'Orientalism'. Will we take it? No. But, that doesn't matter. The Internet has bypassed our obligatory passage point status. Twitter has taken away our interessement mechanism. But, we still have no Henry Adams.
    I haven't read Kaufman's book and hope to do so soon so as to give a more considered reply to your valuable and insightful comments.

  8. From the Egyptian point of view, I wonder if there is a sort of continuity between the ideas of (Pound's hero) W.S Blunt (who proposed an Arab Caliphate) and Yockey- the latter providing something more up-to-date? I suppose Guenon comes into it too at some point. Husseini is another vector for similar ideas. A Palestinian Professor of Islamic studies, Prof Ismail Faruqi had some (Arabist) ideas that were considered quite startling during his sojourn in Pakistan and perhaps there is a connection to Yockey in this. Later, the Prof. was killed for alleged homosexual activity with Malaysian students- the same thing they tried to pin on Anwar Ibrahim- and the Kashmiri activist, Dr. Fai, has received some blame for this.
    It would be hilarious if an American- especially one unconnected with Big Oil, like Yockey- lay at the root of what Hitchens called Islamo-fascism.

    1. Unfortunately this is a subject of which I really am ignorant. Yockey's obscurity in America makes one skeptical of his powers to influence, but one country's crank...