Seen from Europe, America is the dreamed-about Utopia made real; it is the non-place which is nowhere and can consequently be everywhere…



From Goethe-Institut:

Americanisation, or fascination by America, happens all over the world. Everywhere, however, it is strictly selectively focused on consuming of pleasures and tried-and-tested cultural patterns, while the ways of sharing the common are left aside. The Chinese substitute them by artificially fostered nationalism, the Russians, nationalists by birth, by their traditional faith in the strong hand of an enlightened ruler; only Europe, used to a stable social state which is very difficult to maintain, is at loss when searching for a new adhesive in the devilishly fast world. The absolute fascination by America is, therefore, at least theoretically, also an opportunity to search for this “glue of society” as soon as possible.

Why it is so important and why the Europeans cannot do without it in relation towards the Americanisation of the world was something that the Austrian sociologist Georg Simmel spoke about at the end of the WWI. He felt that the “idea of Europe” has disappeared and that in the 20th century it will be replaced by strong current of Americanisation. “Europe will become what Greece was in the time of the Roman Empire – an entertaining, curious destination for the Americans, a place full of ruins, memories, still supplying the artists, scientists and gasbags.”

Simmel’s observation is topical even after a hundred years. What changed was perhaps that besides the Americans, it is more and more frequently the rich Russians and the Chinese who arrive in Europe to see its heritage sites and to have fun. Europe has however retained its role of an entertaining accessory of the dominant powers. The spirit of critical thinking, the pride of the Europeans and the topic of Václav Havel’s memorable spring 2002 Rome speech, succumbed to the American culture of the paradox which makes it possible to make happen what cannot be made happen – utopia.

The European fascination by America is then, ultimately, an expression of wonder that what the noble European spirits have only dared to think and dream about for centuries, the Americans simply translated to a quantifiable material level so that they could touch the dream. They know that what we cannot touch simply does not exist. The Europeans know that the American dream is only a simulation of reality but this simulation – as we know from our experience with the virtual and media world of today – is sometimes more real and more powerful than reality.

“America – An Odd Icon of the New”, Petr Fischer, Geothe-Insitut