In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

reviews Our regular review section features some of the best new books, films, and sound recordings in southern studies. From time to time, you'll also find reviews ofimportant new museum exhibitions and public history sites, and retrospectives on classic works that continue to shape our understanding of the region and its people. Our aim is to explore the rich diversity of southern life and the methods and approaches of those who study it. Not Uke Us How Europeans Have Loved, Hated, and Transformed American Culture Since World War II By Richard Pells Oxford University Press, 1997 464 pp. Cloth, $30.00 Reviewed by Richard H. King, professor of American intellectual history at the University of Nottingham. King was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center during the 1997—98 academic year. For much of American history, Americans and Europeans (particularly Western Europeans) have been locked in an elaborate love-hate relationship. Though Richard Pells surveys the whole of American history, his focus in Not Like Us, as the subtitle indicates, is the post-1945 interaction of European and American culture. It has been, of course, in this American (Half-)Century that the cultural balance, along with the political and economic balance, has shifted. The result has been on most accounts the emergence ofAmerican hegemony. Southerners, in particular, should recognize this feeling ofbeing dominated by a more powerful outside "partner." For instance, the Disney-fication of central Florida has, I suspect, had just as profound and disturbing an effect there as the construction of Euro-Disney has had in France. (Does anyone go to Silver Springs or Cypress Gardens anymore?) In both the South and in Europe, high (sometimes camp) nostalgia jousts with high tech, cultural fundamentalism with postmodern irony. Southern intellectuals and dieir European counterparts have ever complained of feeling invaded, sullied, corrupted. But diey just as often identify with the invader, wallow in the flesh pots, and "join" what they really 80 don't want to "beat." Left-wing French intellectuals bellyaching about the American cultural invasion sound like nothing so much as conservative Agrarians taking their stand. Many academics from both groups have ended up teaching in the belly of die beast. But Not Like Us takes exception to diis myth of American hegemony. Pells's basic thesis can be easily summarized, diough much of the book is spent unpacking it: "[T]he 'Americanization' ofEurope is a myth. A powerful and enduring myth, often cherished by the Europeans themselves because they can use it to explain how their societies have changed in ways diey don't like, but a myth nonetheless." Indeed, I suspect diat American tourists continue to stream to Europe because, beneath the increasingly similar exteriors, European life retains a stubborn difference. Americans don't really want Europe to change that much, for ranch-style houses to replace thatch-roofed cottages or for Budweiser to replace Dortmunder Union. Overall, what Pells is describing is cultural modernization with a heavy American accent, the only accent around now that die Socialist model has self-destructed. Indeed, we already know from the effect ofAmerican culture in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that cultural modernization can create profound ambivalence in the "target culture." Things are rarely what they seem. Not Like Us is marked by both profound strengths and glaring weaknesses. I found Pells's discussion of and-Americanism in postwar France particularly well done and sensitive to complexity. For instance, while bemoaning American cultural influence, intellectuals such as Sartre did heavy-duty work in touting the virtues of American fiction, especially Faulkner, and the influence of American film on the French New Wave cinema and its critics was tremendous. Alongwith the influence of Italian and Swedish film, France worked its effects back onto American film and helped produce die great period of American film running roughly from 1967 to 1975. Pells's analysis ofthis chapter in the history ofcinema sets the stage for a point he makes near the end of his book—die merging of American and European cultures into something like a "hybrid" culture. And yet, die effect ofpost—World War II European thought on America—and vice versa—is mentioned but never really analyzed. Michael...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 80-83
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.