Political Science | America Seen Through European Eyes
Y490 | 14677 | Craiutu

	Over the past two centuries, visitors of the New World saw
America as a prospect, a country whose historical development
foreshadowed the fate of modern industrial society. The institutions
of the United States have always been considered to be a matter of
more general interest than those of other nations in the world. As
James Bryce once put it, these institutions represent "an experiment
in the rule of multitude, tried on a scale unprecedently vast. ...
And yet they are something more than an experiment, for they are
believed to disclose and display the type of institutions toward
which, by a law of fate, the rest of civilized mankind are forced to
	It is often assumed that the best and most reliable guide to
an interpretation of America can be found in Tocqueville's classic
Democracy in America. Regardless of what we may come to think today
about the virtues and limitations of this masterpiece, Tocqueville's
book can serve as a valuable starting point for exploring how
foreign visitors have understood America, its institutions, society,
and culture. On the one hand, it should not be forgotten that the
greatest symbol of America, the widely celebrated Statue of Liberty,
was the work of a few Frenchmen. On the other had, as James Russell
Lowell once said, "for some reason or other, the European has rarely
been able to see America except in caricature." Even if in America
they saw more than America itself, as Tocqueville once acknowledged,
their views on the institutions and manners of the New World are
still worth exploring and comparing, and can enrich our
understanding of liberal democracy.
	In this course, we shall explore a few classic works written
by mostly European thinkers about America. The central issue will be
the "rhetoric of America," the question of American exceptionalism,
and the roots of anti-Americanism. Is America the complete
incarnation of the ideas of the Enlightenment, a "postmodern" ideal
situated beyond history, a source of spiritual decadence that
threatens the European tradition? Or is it a source of rejuvenation
for the rest of the world? Why are some people inclined to espouse
various forms of anti-Americanism?
	Readings will include classic books such as Alexis de
Tocqueville's Democracy in America; James Bryce's The American
Commonwealth,  Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur's Letters from an
American Farmer, Francis Troloppe's The Domestic Manners of the
Americans (1834) Charles Dickens's American Notes (1842) as well as
modern texts such as Jean Beaudrillard's postmodern analysis of the
American society in America (1988); Peter Katzenstein and Robert
Keohane, eds., Anti-Americanisms in World Politics (Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 2007); Andrei Markovits, Uncouth Nation: Why
Europe Dislikes America (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
2007); and Philippe Roger, The American Enemy: The History of French
Anti-Americanism Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
	The requirements for this class include a reading log, a
review of an article, and two written assignments.