EU4A3      Half Unit
The Americas: A European Perspective

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

 Dr Cristobal Garibay-Petersen (CBG 7.06) and Prof Simon Glendinning (CBG 7.01)

Availability

This course is available on the MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe, MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe (LSE & Sciences Po), MSc in European and International Public Policy, MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Bocconi), MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Migration and Public Policy, MSc in International Migration and Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Political Economy of Europe, MSc in Political Economy of Europe (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in The Global Political Economy of China and Europe (LSE and Fudan). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The idea of America has played a variety of roles in European consciousness. Early on, in the mid eighteenth century when America was only emerging, George Berkeley remarked while in New England that “Westward the course of Empire takes its way”. ‘America’, then, seemed to name but the naturally expanding frontier of Europe - an extension of Europe, as it were, albeit one recognised as being part of a New World. Over the course of the next three centuries, however, the European idea of America underwent a series of transformations. By the mid nineteenth century, for example, Tocqueville and Beaumont no longer spoke of America merely as an extension of Europe but, rather, closely associated that idea to those of democracy and equality. America was, in a sense, the realisation of The West. What happened in that period that led to such a profound change in what America signified for Europeans? Amongst other things, revolutions and wars of independence that directly affected Europe (though only partly in that Europe’s perceived interests were being jeopardised). Furthermore, yet another century on, because of Europe’s ideological split, the idea of America in the European imaginary had morphed yet again: while for some Western Europeans such as Maritain, America named something “entirely turned toward the future, not toward the past”, that is, something free from the shackles of history; for some Eastern Europeans such as Gorky, America named a reversion to old feudal forms of exploitation. What elicited these further transformations in the European idea of America? And how have they affected Europe? Can their effects be seen in Europe’s own history, politics, and culture? This course aims at mapping and understanding those transformations by looking in detail at what some of Europe’s most influential thinkers have had to say about America since the early Enlightenment.

Hegel famously claimed that “America is the land of future”, and this has been interpreted to mean that the American Republic would eventually transcend and outlive history -a distinctively European history-. But is Hegel’s assessment even remotely appealing today? Or is it merely an outdated thought that construes history in an overly narrow sense? Hegel’s claim has had a lasting impact in the twentieth century where the trope of America being a land ‘without history’ has echoed time and time again. What, however, is generally meant by this trope? Is it just another expression of a European effort to differentiate Europe from others? Furthermore, recent literature has noted that Hegel, and with him an entire series of European thinkers, including Marx, owes slave revolts in the Americas, especially in the Caribbean Americas, a great intellectual debt. If this is the case, then, the influence of a more encompassing idea of America, one that embraces many Americas, cannot be neglected. In an attempt at productively problematising the notion of ‘the West’, a notion the scrutiny of which is an imperative, in this course we will avoid reducing a priori the idea of America to a single nation (i.e. we will avoid conflating the idea of America with the USA). We will, instead, look at the many things that ‘America’ has named and still names for European thought. In doing so, we aim at understanding America both as a European project and as an American project that inevitably gazes back at Europe.

Teaching

This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totalling a minimum of 25 hours across Michaelmas Term. The teaching will be delivered this year through a combination of online and on-campus formats (or if required, online only). This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas Term, and a review session will be held at the start of the Summer Term to prepare for the online assessment.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay and 1 critical literature review in the MT.

Questions for the formative assessments will be provided by the course convenor.

Chosen literature for the critical review should be cleared with the course convenor. 

Indicative reading

  • Anderson, J. et al. (Eds) The End of the West? Crisis and Change in the Atlantic Order. Cornell University Press, 2008.
  • Cavell, Stanley. This New Yet Unapproachable America. University of Chicago Press, 2013.
  • Condorcet. “The Influence of the American Revolution on Europe” in Writings on The United States. Penn State University Press, 2012.
  • Craiutu, Aurelian & Isaac, Jeffrey (Eds) America Through European Eyes. Penn State University Press, 2009.
  • Dussel, Enrique. The Invention of the Americas: Eclipse of the Other and the Myth of Modernity. Continuum, 1995.
  • Hall, Stuart. Essential Essays, Vols. 1 & 2. Duke University Press, 2019.
  • Huntington, Samuel. The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order. Simon & Schuster, 1996.
  • McGuire, Steven and Smith, Michael. The European Union and the United States. Red Globe-MacMillan Press, 2008.
  • Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. University of Chicago Press, 2002.
  • Valery, Paul. “America as a Projection of the European Mind” in Reflections on the World Today. Pantheon, 1948.

Assessment

Online assessment (100%) in the ST.

The online assessment for this course will be administered via Moodle.  Questions will be made available at a set date/time and students will be given a set period in the ST to complete the answers to questions and upload their responses back into Moodle.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: European Institute

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication