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French scholar Marie-France Toinet says use of the term anti-Americanism "is only fully justified if it implies systematic opposition – a sort of allergic reaction – to America as a whole".
Discussions on anti-Americanism have in most cases lacked a precise explanation of what the sentiment entails (other than a general disfavor), which has led to the term being used broadly and in an impressionistic manner, resulting in the inexact impressions of the many expressions described as anti-American.
The German poet Nikolaus Lenau commented: "With the expression Bodenlosigkeit (absence of ground), I think I am able to indicate the general character of all American institutions; what we call Fatherland is here only a property insurance scheme".
Ceaser argues in his essay that such comments often repurposed the language of degeneracy, and the prejudice came to focus solely on the United States and not Canada and Mexico.
Globally, increases in perceived anti-American attitudes appear to correlate with particular policies or actions, In the mid- to late-eighteenth century, a theory emerged among some European intellectuals that the New World landmasses were inherently inferior to Europe.
The so-called "degeneracy thesis" held that climatic extremes, humidity and other atmospheric conditions in America physically weakened both men and animals.
German newspaper publisher and political scientist Josef Joffe suggests five classic aspects of the phenomenon: reducing Americans to stereotypes, believing the United States to have an irremediably evil nature, ascribing to the U. establishment a vast conspiratorial power aimed at utterly dominating the globe, holding the United States responsible for all the evils in the world, and seeking to limit the influence of the United States by destroying it or by cutting oneself and one's society off from its polluting products and practices. Its status as an "-ism" is a greatly contended suspect, however.
The theory was debated and rejected by early American thinkers such as Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson; Jefferson, in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1781), provided a detailed rebuttal of de Buffon from a scientific point of view.James Ceaser has noted that the denouncement of America as inferior to Europe was in part motivated by the German government's fear of mass emigration; de Pauw was called on to convince the Germans that the new world was inferior.De Pauw is also known to have influenced the philosopher Immanuel Kant in a similar direction.Interpretations of anti-Americanism have often been polarized.Anti-Americanism has been described by Hungarian-born American sociologist Paul Hollander as "a relentless critical impulse toward American social, economic, and political institutions, traditions, and values". moral failure, as opposed to what may be unavoidable failures of a complicated foreign policy that comes with superpower status.