David Carrier: Perhaps this is a real difference between France and America?
Michael Roth: What struck me when I went to France for the first time was seeing streets named after historians. On the second page of Le Monde there were debates about Foucault and Derrida. Complex ideas in the humanities seem to matter in France—that doesn’t happen in the United States. Here there is a healthy suspicion of mere ideas. Part of this is American pragmatism. What’s the cash value of an idea? If it is just an idea, it is not worth much. A certain amount of skepticism is healthy. Too much, though, is stifling. After all, you want ideas to be tested even when their practical value is unclear. There is not as much space for that here.
—BOMB 73, 2000

David Carrier: Perhaps this is a real difference between France and America?

Michael Roth: What struck me when I went to France for the first time was seeing streets named after historians. On the second page of Le Monde there were debates about Foucault and Derrida. Complex ideas in the humanities seem to matter in France—that doesn’t happen in the United States. Here there is a healthy suspicion of mere ideas. Part of this is American pragmatism. What’s the cash value of an idea? If it is just an idea, it is not worth much. A certain amount of skepticism is healthy. Too much, though, is stifling. After all, you want ideas to be tested even when their practical value is unclear. There is not as much space for that here.

BOMB 73, 2000