Editorial Note:

Pedro Blas Gonzalez is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Barry University, Miami Shores, Florida.

Jean François Revel and Anti-Americanism

by Pedro Blas Gonzalez

Jean François Revel's Anti-Americanism is such a well thought out and portentous philosophical tract that it can be argued to begin where Francis Fukuyama's auspicious 1990, The End of History and the Last Man, left off. Fukuyama argued that liberal democracy constitutes the "final form of human government," as the political evolution of man's longing for the best form of government was finally tapering off, thus effectively bringing about the "end of history."1 The latter, it was thought by historically savvy commentators, was to signal a new democratic and peaceful age that would safeguard individual liberties and human rights. The late 1980s and early '90s was a time of great optimism.

Fukuyama viewed the dismantling of Communism as a sign that totalitarian governments contain the seed of self-destruction and that liberal democracy has outlasted all other forms of government, not by chance or force, but most importantly through respect for human liberty and dignity. The dissolution of Communism was accelerated when it became obvious that Mikhail Gorbachev was not going to continue keeping up the appearances of this colossal edifice with the use of military force. Fukuyama does not argue that liberal democracy is perfect. In fact, he insightfully points out where improvements are most needed, but he does argue that it is the best and most efficient form of government ever tried. For Fukuyama, liberal democracy is already a time-proven success of the human spirit and ingenuity.

It is important to point out or remind ourselves that the death of German Nazism, Japanese Fascism, as well as Franco's regime displayed a renewed optimism for international relations. Yet these triumphs were overshadowed by the consolidation of Soviet imperialism after World War II, the spread of Communism over Eastern Europe, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, Salazar's Portugal, Allende's Argentina, and Nicaragua. This is a short list. What Marxists hailed as a triumph for humanity, was actually a sinister operation of power mongering that has seen the death of several hundred million people. Thus, the end of history, argues Fukuyama, ought to be celebrated as a genuine triumph over the totalitarian instinct and its experimental "praxis."

Hence, part of the confusion that the phrase "the end of history" has brought about actually seems spurious at best and ill-founded at worst. Fukuyama contends that at last man has found a workable, civil, and prosperous way of living together under democracy that has delivered us into a peaceful co-existence like none that man has ever known. This, however, much to the chagrin of malcontents, does not signal the end of history as the viable outcome of man's existential plight, even though it does serve as a strong motivation to cease the game of social-political "revolutions." Neither does this mean that democracy is a ready-made, cure-all type of government. By cultivating the reality that man is an autonomously responsible and differentiated entity that is endowed with primal freedom, democracy cannot help but to be the natural culmination of man's existential aspirations. This optimism that is encountered at the end of history envisions democracy as serving as a rational and humane framework for the civil governments of the future.

Fukuyama enlightens us with a question that lies at the very core of what it means to be human: why continue to tamper with something that is not broken? It seems rather ironic that man's history is defined -- at least by some commentators -- as the social-political struggle for material well-being and freedom, and during a time when the greatest number of human beings has attained their freedom, this argument is now conspicuously flipped on its head. This seems to beg the question as to the type of people who use political power play for self-serving reasons. A relevant follow up question has to be leveled at radical ideologues that up to the present have benefited from the absolute power of the totalitarian systems that they have implemented: what happens once man has arrived at Shangri-La? It seems that this question has two egregious answers. One affirms that this is precisely the point of the struggle -- thus throwing a new shadow over the idea of Shangri-La and its operators. The other refutes all conceptions of democracy that are not radically "egalitarian" in principle and practice. The irony in this is that to accept the second provision is precisely to end up in history as we already know it. The latter possibility may be designated as history, but unfortunately, what we understand today as history is little less than a conglomeration of collective events and timetables -- the savage and egotistical use of power and not the development of the spirit of the individual as an autonomous entity.

The end of history has also shown us how implacable and precarious man's ability to reason and practice good will really is. The end of history teaches us that rather than the establishment of governments that respect human rights and actually practice peace, what radical ideologues are most interested in is political power. This means that people will continue to be used as the necessary bait to bring about the "changes" that radical ideologues deem important for the welfare... of the people. In the process, as can easily be verified by the events of history, this butcher shop will remain open. Revel explains this point in regard to the now empirically verifiable failure of Communism:

The issue was not to know when the system would collapse, for that depended on countless specific factors, which combined in different ways in different communist countries. But this was not the real reason there was little foresight regarding communism's fate. The real reason there was the inability to agree on the basic diagnosis, namely that it was fundamentally awful untenable. Every population upon whom it was imposed rejected it when they could. Yet the "experts" and their journalistic acolytes and the politicians who listened to them found it possible to believe that there was an economic success story that had satisfied most of its people's needs.2

The end of history, as Fukuyama has presented this phenomenon of late modernity, has had ample time to prove itself as a valid proposition. With the residue of communist totalitarianism still active in places like China, North Korea, Cuba and its destructive force still a vehement danger to human rights throughout Latin America and other parts of the world, a simple look at the exploitation of human subjects in these societies should carry a great deal of empirical punch for seemingly rational intellectuals. Sadly, this is not the case. Defenders of these systems and its many variants refuse to accept the order of reality in those infra-human societies and continue to defend the indefensible well into the first decade of the twenty first century -- without any signs of letting up. This condition -- "the permanent revolution" -- continues to be an animated and virulent source of anti-Americanism.

At a philosophical level, what we encounter at "the end of history" is the culmination of the negation of man's essence as a differentiated entity. Social-political movements that continue to stump on this reality have created the historical conditions that we are reaping today. Now that we find ourselves at the "end of history" we come to the realization that the individual is, and has always been the fuel that motors history. In many respects, the basis of the raw totalitarian impulse that Popper has so convincingly demonstrated has always existed. Its disguises and forms of human exploitation have been many. The historical importance of the twentieth century, however, is that this is a time when sufficient rational arguments have been devised to convince the masses of their own ineptness. This intellectual framework finds its strongest source of power in a moral vacuum such as that which fuels late-modernity. Thus, the necessary conditions for the totalitarian take-over of vast portions of the world that we witnessed during the twentieth century finds its impetus in the leveling of all moral categories that are not of service to this ancient dictatorial impulse. "Post-modernism" is seemingly older than some commentators care to realize. Here, Revel once again can enlighten us:

Already in the nineteenth century, Kierkegaard had ridiculed -- and refuted the "world-historical slaughterhouses" of Hegelianism, in his Postscriptum to Philosophical Pieces, an attack that was taken up, and deepened, by Karl Popper in our own time, in his Poverty of Historicism. But the "world-historical" habit is still in good shape. Its basis is the idea that what happened had to happen. The practical consequence is that you do not have to do anything, or think anything, or foresee anything. Hegelianism and its child, Marxism, may be out of fashion today, plenty of intelligent people nevertheless continue to view history as a series of necessary, and impersonal, causes and effects, whose outcome can be predicted once it is understood how the machine works. But history is made by individuals. Its course is set by the degree of success and failure of their efforts, which often produce unanticipated consequences. None of these efforts, nor their consequences, can be predicted with any kind of assurance. And when they make mistakes, people like to believe everyone else was in error.3

In Anti-Americanism Revel also contends that this is where we stand today, and that for this reason liberal democracies incessantly come under scrutiny from those who, to use Karl Popper's phrase, are ruled by the totalitarian impulse. And we ought not to forget that this totalitarian impulse must of logical necessity negate all conception of man as an individual, differentiated cosmic entity. This makes the process of mobilizing, controlling, and slaughtering the masses a much more efficient and palpable, social-political science.

Having now arrived at the end of history, as Fukuyama suggests, we find out that all along the whole colossal mechanism of dialectical materialism, with its monolithic, pseudo-scientific aspirations, remains nothing more than a self-serving game for radical ideologues. Albeit, this is a game of intellectual dishonesty, where the rules are set arbitrarily and according to the form of radicalism that is most congenial to one's form of malcontentment. This has nothing to do with moral convictions or reason in its most verifiable, empirical, and objective form. Late modernity, or what some commentators refer to as post-modernity, has given up on morality on rational grounds. As a result, we have re-written the history books and re-vamped our vocabulary to describe political murder using the invective of radical ideology, even though disguised with the cloak of euphemism. This is a sobering realization -- the very point where we now find ourselves today -- and which is also chillingly frightening in its murderous implications. At the end of history we can no longer hide behind the veiled sophism of social-political machinations, revolution, or the manipulation of the masses for an alleged summum bonum. Instead, what we find at the end of history is raw and primitive human nature and the horrors that it can exercise if not contained.

Revel's erudition and mastery of communist intrigue flow from his perspicuity in the intricacies of social-political reality, but also from his gift for understanding psychological nuances. His books are as much about how concrete historical processes play out in an objective arena as they are about the nature of man. This has resulted in very readable and insightful books that actually say something about the man of flesh and bone. Revel's thought puts those who crave incessant cries for utopia to shame. His success as a political commentator is also due to his shunting of abstraction and his embracing of the core values that inform the lives of real people. Rejecting radical ideology in order to reflect on the empirical conditions of the world around him, Revel, like Ortega y Gasset, partakes in the view that political reality is always the most superficial level of a much more sophisticated metaphysical stratification. This also demonstrates how it has come to pass that radical ideologues refuse to engage in a sincere Socratic elenchus that allows reason to set the stage for the attainment of truth. In other words, today we find ourselves in a parting of the ways, where those who refuse to see will never be convinced regardless of the available evidence to the contrary.

Jean-François Revel (1924-2006) was a French philosopher who served as editor of the weekly French newspaper L'Express. His language is clear and respectful of the reader and not couched in asinine and pointless neologisms. As a vital philosopher, that is, someone whose main preoccupation is the strong relationship that exists between necessity and mere contingency in human life, he attacks human problems as if they actually matter. Revel has traveled the world and in so doing has allowed himself to be marveled or shocked, as the case may be, by the living conditions and standards of living that man has created. In the process, he has demonstrated that ideas have consequences, that theory eventually attains a life of its own. But having a life of its own is not necessarily a testament of the truth-value of an idea. Myths and fantasies of all kind are perpetrated today in the news media and by institutions that have a great deal to gain from their continued buoyancy. Consider Revel's take on this paradoxical question in The Totalitarian Temptation:

Is a political philosopher's influence on people's ideas and emotions likely to be greater if his influence on events is diminished? Perhaps: if his ideas are implemented, he is overtaken by reality and his myth will fade away. If his ideas are unpracticed or impracticable, they will continue to excite the imagination and to provide food for discussion. The name of Karl Marx is no doubt uttered several millions times a day in the three thousand-odd languages spoken on our planet, although -- perhaps because -- no existing society, according to the socialists themselves, is authentically socialist.4

For Revel, thought does not exhibit the qualities of an intellectual sport. This is quite evident in his 1957 work, Pourquoi des Philosophes, where he offers a critique of sterile academicism. He cites medieval scholasticism as an example of self-referential ideas that have lost their vital importance. Revel is a worldly thinker whose erudition informs his thought. He writes in Memoires: Le voleur dans la maison vide, a book that has yet to be translated into English, that the prerogative of the writer is to tell the truth, unlike the politician who has too many obligations to truly exercise something resembling freedom. Yet this is also a condition of the courage necessary for the life of thought that Socrates inspires in his Socratic method. Amongst his more distinguished books we can mention The French (1966), Without Marx or Jesus (1970), On Proust (1972), The Totalitarian Temptation (1976), Culture and Cuisine: A Journey Through the History of Food (1982), How Democracies Perish (1983), Democracy Against Itself: The Future of the Democratic Impulse (1993), and The Monk and the Philosopher (1999).

Revel's goal in Anti-Americanism, he tells us in the introduction, is to continue his exploration of the "numerous examples of the intrinsically contradictory character of passionate anti-Americanism" that he first spelled out in Without Marx or Jesus.5 His objective in Anti-Americanism is to continue to bring up to date this radical ideological pathology. He explains: "The illogicality at base consists in reproaching the United States for some shortcoming, and then for its opposite. Here is a convincing sign that we are in the presence, not of rational analysis, but of obsession. The examples I mentioned were from the sixties, but others can easily be adduced from much earlier and much later, revealing a deeply rooted habit of mind that hasn't altered in the slightest over the years. The lessons that can be drawn from the last three decades of the century, which hardly reflect badly on the United States, have apparently made no impression."6 Two significant world changes that have taken place in that interval are the fall of the Soviet Union, and most of its satellite states -- a monumental task that for a while after totally disoriented the focus of radical ideologues -- and which subsequent necessitated an expedient reshuffling of Marxism, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by Islamic terrorists. The latter having a major impact on the re-organization of the energy and strategic focus of the former.

The initial impression that a reader of Anti-Americanism forms is Revel's lucid prose and the meticulously researched body of facts that makes up this work. Like the rest of Revel's books, Anti-Americanism, brings together hordes of empirical data that apparently never found its way into the mainstream media, and that has not been disseminated to free citizens. Each of the book's chapters embrace diverse aspects of the pathology which champions the perpetual use of violence against democracy and the United States as its most visible embodiment. Revel pays very close attention to the question of media bias in perpetuating myths and lies for political gain, as he also did so effectively in The Flight from Truth: The Reign of Deceit in the Age of Information. About keeping the news from the very people that it is supposed to serve, Revel has the following to say about the political media bias: "The pitying sniggers ritually directed against the American whipping boy by the European media, however, come for the most part from ignorance so profound that it seems deliberate. On the other hand, confining ourselves to the period of the United States' emergence as sole superpower, dozens of serious books and hundreds of serious articles have been published, by American and European authors alike, dealing with America. In contrast to the run-of-the-mill obsessive complaints, this material makes available -- for those who are willing to be informed -- balanced and factual information about American civilization, its successes and failures, its good deeds and bad, its moments of clear vision and blindness. And if harsh judgments can be found in this unbiased literature, we may at least feel confident that they are not dictated by incompetence. Laziness is not an adequate explanation for the ignorance of European opinion-makers; it must, more often than not, be voluntary and imputable to ruling idées fixes." 7

As one reads Revel's work we also arrive at the conclusion that despite our conveniently expedient selective relativism, so in vogue today, history as we know it, especially the events that marked the twentieth century, can be deciphered as a struggle between those who are moved by the totalitarian impulse, and who have created an elaborate intellectual framework of self-preservation, and those who, seeking to know the truth, spend their energy in trying to dissuade people from becoming useful fools. Nowhere is this more evident than in the mechanism of terror perfected by totalitarian regimes in the twentieth century. Revel alerts us to the fact that America must of necessity continue to have a great number of detractors that issue from the former camp.

However poignant and decisive the aforementioned events may have been to the cause of human liberty and dignity worldwide, Revel's argument is that it is precisely due to these events that have taken place in late-modernity that the totalitarian impulse has intensified. This has effectively taken place because those who favor totalitarianism have perfected a system of terror that uses fear as a weapon to silence its opponents, and because of the aid rendered to these systems by opportunistic intellectuals. This is paradoxical given our increased capability and ability to report the truth through an elaborate array of media outlets. Revel makes this clear in the introduction, "Inevitably then, today as yesterday and yesterday as the day before, a book about the United States must be a book dealing with disinformation about the United States -- a formidable and perhaps Sisyphean task of persuasion, doomed to failure, since the disinformation in question is not the result of pardonable, correctable mistakes, but rather of a profound psychological need. The mechanism of the 'Great Lie' that fences in America on every front, and the rejection of everything that might refute it, evokes the equivalent lie that surrounds the Soviet Union ever since 1917 -- not to the detriment, but to the advantage of the Communist empire."8 His reference to the Great Lie takes its cue from Ante Ciliga, a Yugislav communist who spent six years in the Soviet Union's Gulag. In 1940, his book about the Soviet Union, Au pays du grand mensonge (The Russian Enigma) created great fanfare for exposing the horrors of the Soviet Union's machinery of terror.

Anti-Americanism begins by deciphering the technique and psychology necessary to mount the apparatus of the great lie and how best to see it to fruition. The purpose of the great lie, the author tells us, is to increase the chasm that exists between the desire to know of the members of the silent majorities and the exercise of power and control of the intellectual and media elites. Hence, Revel begins by calling attention to the fashionable malaise of attacking the United States as the scourge and source of all the evils found on this planet. Revel points out that the ethos of the people whose only passion is to "play-act a revolution that has failed" is relentless and self-serving. The "anointed Western bien pensants," -- Revel's equivalence to Marxist apologists -- are not only found outside, but rather very busy in the role of fifth columnists, as a kind of insider trading of another sort. This, of course, is an interesting pathology, for this form of destabilization of one's food source and shelter is nowhere to be found in the animal kingdom, for instance. This is also a fine case of intellectual hypocrisy, given that the collective suicide that western intellectuals promote is one that they will never experience given their bourgeoisie sensibility. In matters of international political intrigue, Revel goes on to suggest, that there are no coincidences, maladroit misunderstandings or wasted efforts. He points out that malcontentment, like a malignant corrosive, simply never sleeps.

Drawing from a diverse array of historical, interdisciplinary, statistical, and demographical data, Revel is able to situate his arguments in the world as it actually exists today, and not give in to theoretical wishful projections. This is a sincere and time-tried manner of rationally presenting his arguments. And because Revel is a first-rate political philosopher, he can easily decipher fallacies where they are most dangerous to the body politic: as embodied in radical ideologies. If techniques for deconstruction are in vogue today in some insipid and flippant academic circles, this was certainly not designed to fall in the hands of an able public intellectual of Revel's. Starting from shaky presuppositions that beg the question, that is, premises that answer their own questions in the asking, the selective relativism that calls itself desconstructionism has opened up a vast new Pandora's Box of possibilities for the practice of irrationality. This form of relativism has had profoundly devastating implications as to what constitutes reason and our rational faculty to communicate with others. By legitimizing all forms of crass irrationalism, deconstructionism has become yet one more contradictory form of Marxism, in the latter's ability to destroy coherence and substitute it with baseless opinion. As an ancient form of sophism, this self-loathing cynicism cannot help but to eventually self-destruct. However, burnt out and fallacious theories that man eventually gives up on have historically managed to do a great deal of harm to the human psyche and how we appropriate reality. Revel turns deconstruction on its head and makes it bite itself, and as such, he makes a lasting mark on the understanding by proving that the insular world of the academic seminar has very little to say about the conditions that pertain to reality proper.

Anti-Americanism is not a work that rants about the plight of all the alleged or imagined "just" causes of the world and how mother U.S.A seems to always find herself in the middle of it all. What makes Revel particularly credible as a political philosopher is his ability to be guided -- and refuted -- by objective reality. His overwhelming integration of facts and his willingness to stir clear of pompous, though gullible and destructive ideological notions make his thought not only enlightening, but also instructive.

In a chapter entitled, "Contradictions" Revel argues that America has become a "global superpower" because it is ranked first in the world in the following four essential categories: economics, technology, military, and culture. He credits American high culture with offering a measure of refined sophistication to the rest of the world in the areas of literature, painting, music, and architecture that readily goes unnoticed by one-eyed critics. The same can be said of the quality of American symphonies and opera houses. However, it is America's popular culture, he suggests, that draws the most attention internationally, and the most ire from intellectuals. While American trends in popular music, dress, and food have a great attraction for the youth of the world; it nevertheless attracts the greatest degree of ire from its ideologically radical detractors. This is primarily the case because popular culture is highly visible. Revel intimates that the aesthetic value of these creations can be debated without recourse to rancorous ideology. This is merely a case of competition in the open market -- either economically or in terms of ideas. A fine example of another philosopher that critiques America from the outside is Julian Marias' masterful 1972 work, America in the Fifties and Sixties: Julian Marias on the United States, a well intentioned work that never descends to the level of ideology. Marias' aim is simply to contrast American values and mindset with that of his native Spain.

Revel's commentary is particularly indicative of his understanding of the phenomenon of anti-Americanism in his ability to point out the causes or reasons for American success in the aforementioned areas. Not simply content with dismissing reality, Revel instead resorts to sincere analysis. He draws his data from diverse sources that are today readily verifiable. He challenges radical intellectuals to engage in the same.

His main concern in Anti-Americanism, then, as is also the case in his other works, is to demonstrate that if the citizens of democratic countries are mostly happy with their well-being, why then do democratic, open societies receive the constant barrage of attacks that they receive from radicals on both the left and right? Revel's point is to dispel myths and to cite the true origins of hatred and disdain for liberal democracy. Attacks from the left against America are simply the pangs of Marxism and its inadequacy in establishing a sustainable social-political and economic order -- without recourse to tanks, firing squads, and the need to use the gulag as therapy. From the right, the frustration is based on the recognition that the old-world power enjoyed by Europe has long diminished as a competitive force in a highly competitive global order.

Part of the problem has to do with Revel's contention that the people only hear what members of the political and cultural elite allow them to hear. He makes this very clear when he writes in The Totalitarian Temptation, "Similarly, societies where news is censored cannot enjoy the luxury of false objectivity because they do not have the true variety. In free civilizations, false objectivity must be fought by true objectivity, not by some alien bureaucracy. Prejudiced history is eliminated, or at least combated, by serious history, and corrupt journalism can only be defeated by honest journalism, not by a government commission whose first act may be to distribute some secret subsidies."9 This, of course, is aptly confirmed by people who have lived and have been incarcerated in totalitarian regimes. But what about those who do not know any better? Is this merely a matter of education?10

Another of Revel's strongest contentions in Anti-Americanism is that it is the responsibility of opinion makers, educators, professors, and media elites to act as intermediaries to educate the general populace on questions, where as professionals they naturally should know better. The social-political-economic and technological realities that inform today's world are complex and demand the cooperation of people in positions of leadership to continue to educate the masses. Argued as such, this seems a simple proposition. But this question is also one of good will. This lack of good will, then, is the crux of Revel's argument. Anti-Americanism is also essentially a book on humanism and what actually takes place on the world stage in its absence.

He cites the November 2000 American Presidential election as an example of the strength of liberal democracy at work. Only after the votes were counted and recounted several times, leading up to a month's delay in the final tally did a clear winner emerge. Revel writes, "So when rulers and intelligentsia of manifestly undemocratic countries see fit to call the United States a 'banana republic' they are only exhibiting their own bad faith; coming from a Muammar al-Qaddafi or a Robert Mugabe, card-carrying grave-diggers of democracy, such comments are amusing; while from the Russians, whose restoration of universal suffrage was indeed encouraging though fraught with problems, they are merely hypocritical."11 In "Contradictions" Revel offers insightful and useful commentaries on topics ranging from the American Electoral College, the hyped-up numbers of the Kyoto Protocol, to "America's production of 25 percent of the planet's goods and services."

After the void that the fall of the Soviet Empire created -- a global dystopia by all accounts -- globalization is now suddenly viewed as the apex of all evils. Mind you, the Soviet Union proved to be the most formidable form of imperialism that the world has yet to know. As an imperialist movement, Communism's aim -- in theory and practice -- was and remains the domination of resources and people. This is hardly a new point to consider. Revel convincingly argues that what lies behind the anti-globalization clamor of the 1990s is a deeply rooted struggle against liberalism and capitalism, whose chief representative and most powerful vehicle is the United States, even though not exclusively. While the Soviet Empire was by design expansionist both ideologically and territorially, this phenomenon was regarded by Marxists as a necessary step toward world "liberation." Instead, Revel points out that the principles of globalization are nothing more than the freedom of movement for goods and free people.

In another chapter entitled, "Antiglobalism and Anti-Americanism" Revel argues that these two terms are synonymous with capitalism. He points out the terrible inconsistencies that make up the arguments of antiglobalizers when he writes, "America is the object of their loathing because, for a half-century or more, she has been the most prosperous and creative capitalist society on earth. Ultimately it is liberal democracy -- or quite simply liberty itself -- that they are eager to destroy, even though they are among its foremost beneficiaries, being free to travel anywhere, anytime in order to hatch their plots. If their diktats were carried out, if frontier barriers were reestablished everywhere, with passports and visas even for tourists, there could have been no Seattle and no Goteborg."12 This, of course, fits the old dictum of biting the hand that feeds it. Revel does nothing other than point out the hypocritical and debilitating truth when he points out that the people who have the most pressing and vital need to protest, people whose lives depend on it, are those who live in totalitarian countries. The antiglobalization rioters, as he calls these volatile elements, have no coherent program, only a "display of useless farrago of hatreds." Revel argues that this hatred and pathological malcontentment originated in the refusal to accept the dictates of democratic legalities by the denizens of 'May' 68." But his most significant insight is his observance that "May' 68" degenerated over the course of the next twenty years into a sanguinary terrorism. His point is that the likes of the Italian Red Brigades, The Baader-Meinhof Gang, German Red Army Faction, Japanese Red Army, Belgian Fighting Communist Cells, and Direct Action in France, but to name only a few of these murderous groups all originated in a Marxist ideology whose explicit goal is the justification of their tyrannous means. The main contradiction of Marxist dogma, Revel goes on to point out, is that because the "Uprising of the 'masses' is more democratic than 'formal' democracy," the possibilities for terror and genuine oppression are always limitless.

Chapter three, "Hatreds and Fallacies" also catches the reader's attention. Revel develops the argument that there is no reason why there should be any misunderstandings about America both in its strengths and weaknesses given the open stance that America takes on all aspects of human liberty. He cites the available resources, the many studies, the access that the international media has to operate within her borders, and the cosmopolitan nature of today's traveler as examples of how good will operates in liberal democracies. Ignorance, or what is worse, virulent Anti-Americanism, Revel goes on to argue, is a deliberate hate of democracy.

After the September 11 attacks America's detractors were heard cynically sporting questions whether America had anything to do with these heinous crimes against humanity. Revel, like many other commentators argues that the attacks of September 11 were celebrated the world over as a system of checks and balances where hatred for America felt empowered. He writes: "What were the real causes of September 11 -- something closer to an act of war than an act of terrorism? The fundamental cause is unquestionably located in the resentment felt against the United States, a resentment that grew apace after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. and America's emergence as 'sole global superpower'."13 It goes without saying that these very forces that applauded the "victory" of September 11 are the very entities that upheld the virtues of Iron Curtain totalitarian states prior to the fall of Communism. A clear proof of this is the protection that these entities currently offer regimes like China, North Korea, and Cuba. If enlisting the favors of totalitarian regimes is not convincing enough, a glance at Christopher Andrew's 1999 The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB rigorous analysis of de-classified KGB files will leave no doubt as to the validity of Revel's argument, and his timely data. Anti-Americanism readily demonstrates that at a psychological level, hatred always manifests itself as such regardless of the elaborate steps taken to cover it up.

If rudimentary distortions of American foreign policy, the nature of her economy, and the international appeal of her popular culture are not enough, then a systematic attack on her people and way of life is employed. The author calls chapter four, "The Worst Society that Ever Was." There Revel takes on the motives of those who discredit the United States on philosophical and moral grounds. The French people, for instance, Revel argues, is presented a picture of American life that is clumsily conjured up by politicians and intellectuals for self-serving ideological reasons. Given the daily bombardment of this propaganda, the dominant picture that is imprinted on the consciousness of the people of France is something that resembles the following: "In the first place, American society is entirely ruled by money. No other value, whether familial, moral, religious, civic, cultural, professional or ethical, has any currency in itself all these values are brought back to money. Everything is commodity, regarded and used exclusively as commodity. A person is judged solely by the worth of his bank account. Every president has been in the pockets of the oil companies, the military-industrial complex, the agricultural lobby or the financial manipulations of Wall Street. America is the 'jungle' par excellence of out-of-control liberalism and 'savage' capitalism, where the rich are always becoming richer and always fewer while the poor are always becoming poorer and always more numerous. Poverty is the dominant social reality in America. Hordes of famished indigents are everywhere, while luxurious chauffeured limousines with darkened windows glide through the urban wilderness."14

Of course, any American traveler abroad can easily verify the veracity and acuteness of Revel's commentary. When reading European newspapers, the sentient American or sincere westerner finds it hard to correlate the ideological lies that paper is made to hold with the reality that is easily verifiable by good will observers. In order for a lie to be effective tireless repetition must be part of the formula. Revel demonstrates not only that the opposite is true, but that the self-critical make-up of the American political system easily points out such defects. Other French intellectuals like Bernard Henri-Levy, Pascal Bruckner, and Andre Glucksmann have recently pointed this out.

In a literary vein, Revel goes on to cite that American writers have been traditionally open to pointing out America's shortcomings, what he considers to be a valuable aspect of the open society. He observes that from 1865 to 1914 writers like Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair, and Sinclair Lewis wrote accusatory works on American culture. This same social-criticism was upheld during the inter-wars period by able writers such as John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath and John Dos Passos in his successful Midcentury and U.S.A. The end of World War II, Revel informs us, brought about the likes of writers like John Updike and Tom Wolfe and the birth of investigative journalism.

Revel also points out that French anti-Americanism and disdain for American practical solutions to everyday problems is so virulent that highway police enforcement and Guilani's model of crime control in New York City are ignored, when in reality they have demonstrated their effectiveness. It seems doubtful that the charge of arrogance can stick given that America, much like ancient Rome, is very good at incorporating worldly solutions to home grown problems. Revel does not ignore questions of American culture, patterns of immigration to America, language, education, and crime.

Revel also addresses questions having to do with television, film, the media, art and, music: "'Cultural diversity' has replaced 'cultural exceptionalism' in the French-inspired, European rhetoric. But in actuality, the two terms cover the same kind of cultural protectionism. The idea that a culture can preserve its originality by barricading itself against foreign influences is an old illusion that has always produced the opposite of the desired result. Isolation breeds sterility. It is the free circulation of cultural products and talents that allows each society to perpetuate and renew itself."15 He cites ancient Sparta as an isolationist city-state that in comparison to Athens cannot boost of a single "notable poet, orator, thinker or architect." From there he quickly moves on to questions of the French influences of philosophy, cinema and art. Fear of globalization, which Revel rationally dismantles, is yet another word for Americanization. He argues that American culture is much more than burgers and soda. Instead, American culture is "Not just songs by Madonna and action films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; it includes 1,700 symphony orchestras, opera attended by 7.5 million people every year, and museums that are visited by 500 million annually, almost all American museums, where entrance is quite often free, owe their existence and funding to private sponsors."16 Revel's arguments throughout this work are irrefutable while his penchant for fact is meticulous and well researched. Ideology aside, he allows for facts to address reality a posteriori.

His analysis of the differences between cultural diversity and globalization is timely. He reasons that while globalization is a free exchange of cultures, cultural diversity is merely forced cultural protectionism that cannot succeed except at the price of emptiness. Anti-Americanism is the kind of book where the facts are the message.

Revel manages to isolate the "new" phenomenon of terrorism as being rather old "hot fronts" of the cold war. Given the dwindling influence of Marxism as an official mechanism of state terror, Revel correctly asserts that the only thing left, then, is terrorism as the preferred form of war for the twenty-first century. He observes, "Thus hyper-terrorism borrows its technological means from our modern civilization while trying to destroy and replace it globally with an archaic one -- an engine of poverty and an enemy of Western values. In these terms the 'war of the twenty-first century is defined.'"17

Anti-Americanism ends with a chapter aptly titled, "Scapegoating." Revel's sincerity as a thinker comes through when he writes at the beginning of that chapter: "There is a big difference between being anti-American and being critical of the United States. Once again: critiques are appropriate and necessary, provided that they rest on facts and address real abuses, real errors and real excesses -- without deliberately losing sight of America's wise decisions, beneficent interventions and salutary policies. But critiques of this kind -- balanced, fair and well-founded are hard to find, except in America herself: in the daily press in weekly news magazines, on television and radio, and in highbrow monthly journals, which are more widely read than their equivalents in Europe."18

Anti-Americanism traces the various forms that anti-Americanism has taken in the past and how this hatred informs the present. Revel effectively demonstrates that this phenomenon is brought about by the ruling elites: "Here again it is the political leadership and above all the intellectuals who perpetuate the resentment, at the price of a profoundly split personality, since most of them are disciples and clients of the United States even as they vituperate the U.S. when they harangue their citizens."19 He goes on to cite that this is clearly demonstrated in the embracing of American products by people in places like China, Iran, and Latin America, places where in many instances the official government line is no less than continual vituperation of the American system. He shows that according to a SOFRES (Société Française d'enquêtes par sondage) survey of May 2000, "only 10 percent of French people feel dislike for the United States." Revel ends the book with the reminder that, "The two most glaring traits of obsessive anti-Americanism: selectivity with respect to evidence and indictment replete with contradiction."20 The book easily demonstrates that at the root of this malaise one always encounters the cancer of radical ideology.

Revel blames the European left's complicity with all forms of anti-Americanism in order to hide its own deeply rooted and intractable contradictions. This is, however, not a condition felt or practiced by the common man but rather, "Anti-Americanism thus defined is less a popular prejudice than a parti pris of the political, cultural and religious elites." 21 He equally assesses the rise to world prominence of the U.S. to have come about as a failure of European nations to come to terms with the responsibility of power.

Dispensing with reality and facts is the modus operandi of anti-Americanism. Hence it seems appropriate to end by citing what Revel considers to be the apotheosis of hate when he quotes Thierry Meyssan: "The nadir was reached in March 2002 with the publication of "L'Effroyable Imposture by one Thierry Meyssan. According to Meyssan, no airplane was crashed into the Pentagon on September 11. Rather it was a truck bomb, part of a massive disinformation campaign cooked up by the American secret services and the 'military-industrial complex' in order to justify to an appalled nation the upcoming armed interventions in Afghanistan and Irak."22

Not surprisingly, we find that a philosophical level the social-political hatreds that the totalitarian impulse lets loose on a wide scale, are the very personal inadequacies that breed malcontentment at the level of individual differentiation. We do not need a pretentious theoretical network to enable us to realize that morality -- but most importantly, conscience -- is transferred from familial relations to interpersonal ones -- to the social-political at the local level, and from there, we project our hatreds onto the world-at-large. Anti-Americanism is made up of several causes, but like soccer riots, none of these hold water when held up to rational standards. The end of history finds us in a precarious situation. Having vanquished a large number of totalitarian systems of government and liberated scores of people, we are now left with the naked reality that totalitarianism for the sake of the pleasantries and kick-backs that it grants its perpetrators, is now effectively exposed. Without the failed and bogus theoretical mantle to protect these types from carving up the world for self-serving reasons, reason, and moral good will seem to have come to the fore. This would seem like a desirable breakthrough. However, the very malignancy that weaves its way through the ranks of interpersonal relationships, we ought to realize, is never merely content to stop there. This is the brilliant form of sophism -- in its not so subtle ability to rationalize and relativize personal gains -- which Thrasymachus is not ashamed to convey in Plato's work. What can be next, newer innovations in the use of radical ideological decoys to rally the masses? It seems in the final analysis that the shape of the future is as ominous as it has ever been. And if this is indeed the case, whoever is fooled or becomes a willing fool in the world of the future does so out of factors which will have to do with rational and historical ignorance.

Schopenhauer on Conscience as the Ground of Ethics, by Pedro Blas Gonzalez

Camus' Hero of the Absurd, by Pedro Blas Gonzalez

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1. Jean-François Revel. Anti-Americanism. San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2003, p. xi.

2. Jean-François Revel. Democracy Against Itself: The Future of the Democratic Impulse. Translated by Roger Kaplan. New York: The Free Press, 1993, p. 57.

3. Ibid., p. 56.

4. Jean-François Revel. The Totalitarian Impulse. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1977, p. 245.

5. Anti-Americanism, p. 7.

6. Ibid., p. 7.

8. Ibid., p. 10.

10. Ibid., Revel explains: "Since no example of Leninist socialism is other than totalitarian and bureaucratic, one wonders how the doctrinaire ideologists can dismiss so disdainfully those who point out that the promise of socialism in freedom, while surely praiseworthy, remains a promise only, not something experienced in reality. The utopia of socialism with a human face has been crushed everywhere even before it could be born. How distressing that becoming humane, which should be the least we could expect from a regime dedicated to liberating humanity, should present for socialism a problem as impossible as squaring the circle." p.57.

11. Anti-Americanism, p. 22.

12. Ibid., p. 35.

13. Ibid., p. 61.

14. Ibid., p. 77.

15. Ibid., p. 105.

16. Ibid., p. 109.

17. Ibid., p. 129.

18. Ibid., p. 143.

19. Ibid., p. 145.

20. Ibid., p. 149.

21. Ibid., p. 143

22. Ibid., p. 150.