An Ambivalent Heritage: Euro-American Relations
Pub Date: January 01, 1994
Product Format: Essay
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From its begininning, the relationship between Europe and America has been marked by profound ambivalence. Europe (especially Britain) was both admired and resented, held up for imitation and cursed. For much of American history Europe was respected for its culture, aristocratic manners, eloquence, and social prestige but feared for its class struggles, authoritarianism, state religions, and fratricidal wars. The Europeans felt Americans were uncouth, excessively individualistic, and violent. Although the upper classes were often anti-American, the working class initially viewed the United States as the land of opportunity, equality, and freedom.
The United States became the world's most successful multiracial and multiethnic society, but its roots were European (over 80 percent of Americans derived from European stock). The culture, laws, and insitututions also largely came from Europe, especially from Britain. But althrough Europe greatly influenced the United States until World War II, thereafter the United States has shaped Europe. And although for much of American history, Europe was a mecca for American artists and litsrati, after World War II American culture became more self-confident and assertiveta reflection of U.S. military and economic might. No longer would the United States shy away from involvement with Europe; instead the United States determined to stay in Europe, rebuild it, and pressure the Europeans into economic cooperation through a customs union and into the miltiary alliance through the North Alantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO would protect Europeans from the Soviet Union and from one another. The result is a partial Americanization of Europe and the dominance of American culture, technology, business methods, and science. American power and influence created a good deal of hostility, especially from the British and French, who resented the loss of their leadership. But overall, American and Europeans respected each other, depended on each other, and created, by massive reciprocal relationships, the Atlantic Community, the greatest political economic and cultural association in world history.