Time was, American ideas that were exported around the world had to do with freedom and democracy. Today, the American ideas we are exporting are critical theory, political correctness, and “woke” ideology. And some countries are pushing back.
France especially is objecting. The New York Times has published an article by Norimitsu Onishi entitled Will American Ideas Tear France Apart? Some of Its Leaders Think So with the deck, “Politicians and prominent intellectuals say social theories from the United States on race, gender and post-colonialism are a threat to French identity and the French republic.” Here is the lead:
The threat is said to be existential. It fuels secessionism. Gnaws at national unity. Abets Islamism. Attacks France’s intellectual and cultural heritage.
Macron is far from being a conservative. But when French protesters started emulating the Americans during the George Floyd protests, Macron said, as quoted in an article by Jarrett Stepman, “the [French] republic will not erase any trace, or any name, from its history … it will not take down any statue.”
Macron’s education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, issued a statement calling on French schools and universities to resist this ideology. “There’s a battle to wage against an intellectual matrix from American universities,’’ he said. One hundred French intellectuals wrote an open letter supporting the statement and expressing opposition to theories “transferred from North American campuses.” Two prominent French scholars published a book entitled Race et Sciences Sociales (Race and the Social Sciences), critiquing the way the often subjective and culturally-constructed concept of race has come to dominate the social sciences.
This is ironic, of course, since French thinkers gave us post-modernism, which is the starting point for “woke” ideology. (See our post on Michel Foucault.) And, to be sure, some professors and students at French universities, who have indeed been influenced by American academics, are the source of the current concern.
But Macron and company are not just indulging in another kind of anti-Americanism. France, whose egalitarian ideals do not permit the government to so much as collect data about the race of its citizens, is still facing a serious problem with Islamic terrorists, who are murdering journalists who do not show due respect for Mohammed and committing other attacks against French citizens.
And, as a Wall Street Journal editorial points out, the terrorists are justifying their actions by using this same anti-Western sentiment, “post-colonial” discourse, and “woke” rhetoric. In having to defend democratic ideals such as free speech, artistic freedom, and individual rights, Macron and others must oppose the new American ideology, with its cancel culture and illiberal values.
Meanwhile, China has started to use woke ideology and rhetoric in its propaganda to describe the evils of America.
Photo: French President Emmanuel Macron by Remi Jouan, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons