European society was more densely populated. There was no open land [to which] people [could go to] start farms, towns. And so one of the things that made America different from Europe was the fact that it was a frontier society, that it had a frontier. But then, in his judgment, the frontier ended at the turn of the century, and this for him meant that there would be a qualitative change in the character of America.
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Terminology[ edit ] The exact term "American exceptionalism" was occasionally used in the 19th century. American Communists started using the English term "American exceptionalism" in factional fights. It then moved into general use among intellectuals. He suggests these historians reason as follows: America marches to a different drummer. Its uniqueness is explained by any or all of a variety of reasons: history, size, geography, political institutions, and culture.
Explanations of the growth of government in Europe are not expected to fit American experience, and vice versa. Bernard Bailyn , a leading colonial specialist at Harvard, is a believer in the distinctiveness of American civilization. Although he rarely, if ever, uses the phrase "American exceptionalism," he insists upon the "distinctive characteristics of British North American life. Some claim the phrase "American exceptionalism" originated with the American Communist Party in an English translation of a condemnation made in by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin criticizing communist supporters of Jay Lovestone for the heretical belief the US was independent of the Marxist laws of history "thanks to its natural resources, industrial capacity, and absence of rigid class distinctions".
Their strictly Puritanical origin, their exclusively commercial habits, even the country they inhabit, which seems to divert their minds from the pursuit of science, literature, and the arts, the proximity of Europe, which allows them to neglect these pursuits without relapsing into barbarism, a thousand special causes, of which I have only been able to point out the most important, have singularly concurred to fix the mind of the American upon purely practical objects.
His passions, his wants, his education, and everything about him seem to unite in drawing the native of the United States earthward; his religion alone bids him turn, from time to time, a transient and distracted glance to heaven.
Let us cease, then, to view all democratic nations under the example of the American people. Wells , G. Chesterton , and Hilaire Belloc ; they did so in complimentary terms. From the s to the late 19th century, the McGuffey Readers sold million copies and were studied by most American students.
Furthermore, McGuffey saw America as having a future mission to bring liberty and democracy to the world. Henry Nash Smith stressed the theme of "virgin land" in the American frontier that promised an escape from the decay that befell earlier republics. Absence of feudalism[ edit ] Many scholars use a model of American exceptionalism developed by Harvard political scientist Louis Hartz.
The national government that emerged was far less centralized or nationalized than its European counterparts. Most Americans do not fully own their homes, and most Americans work for wages to enrich the owners of whatever publicly-held company deigns to employ them. This is feudalism, not capitalism. They believed God had made a covenant with their people and had chosen them to provide a model for the other nations of the Earth. One Puritan leader, John Winthrop , metaphorically expressed this idea as a " City upon a Hill "—that the Puritan community of New England should serve as a model community for the rest of the world.
Eric Luis Uhlmann of Northwestern University argues that Puritan values were taken up by all remaining Americans as time went by. Schultz underlines how they helped America to keep to its Protestant Promise, especially Catholics and Jews. Historian Gordon Wood has argued, "Our beliefs in liberty, equality, constitutionalism, and the well-being of ordinary people came out of the Revolutionary era.
So too did our idea that we Americans are a special people with a special destiny to lead the world toward liberty and democracy. These sentiments laid the intellectual foundations for the Revolutionary concept of American exceptionalism and were closely tied to republicanism , the belief that sovereignty belonged to the people, not to a hereditary ruling class.
Republicanism led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison created modern constitutional republicanism , with a limit on ecclesiastical powers. Historian Thomas Kidd argues, "With the onset of the revolutionary crisis, a significant conceptual shift convinced Americans across the theological spectrum that God was raising up America for some particular purpose. Jefferson sought a radical break from the traditional European emphasis on "reason of state" which could justify any action and the usual priority of foreign policy and the needs of the ruling family over the needs of the people.
He identified his nation as a beacon to the world, for, he said on departing the presidency in , America was: "Trusted with the destinies of this solitary republic of the world, the only monument of human rights, and the sole depository of the sacred fire of freedom and self-government, from hence it is to be lighted up in other regions of the earth, if other areas of the earth shall ever become susceptible of its benign influence.
Young argues that after the end of the Cold War in , neoconservative intellectuals and policymakers embraced the idea of an "American empire," a national mission to establish freedom and democracy in other nations, particularly poor ones. She argues that after the September 11th, terrorist attacks, the George W. Bush administration reoriented foreign policy to an insistence on maintaining the supreme military and economic power of America, an attitude that harmonized with this new vision of American empire.
Young says the Iraq War — exemplified American exceptionalism. We have been essential to the preservation and progress of freedom, and those who lead us in the years ahead must remind us, as Roosevelt , Kennedy , and Reagan did, of the unique role we play.
Neither they nor we should ever forget that we are, in fact, exceptional. In the formulation of President Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address , America is a nation "conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal". Harry Williams argues that Lincoln believed: In the United States man would create a society that would be the best and the happiest in the world.
The United States was the supreme demonstration of democracy. However, the Union did not exist just to make men free in America. It had an even greater mission—to make them free everywhere. By the mere force of its example, America would bring democracy to an undemocratic world. A consequence of this political system is that laws can vary widely across the country.
Critics of American exceptionalism maintain that this system merely replaces the power of the national majority over states with power by the states over local entities. On balance, the American political system arguably allows for more local dominance but prevents more domestic dominance than does a more unitary system. He argues that: birthright citizenship stands as an example of the much-abused idea of American exceptionalism No European nation recognizes the principle. Experience teaches that when the United States leads on human rights, from Nuremberg to Kosovo, other countries follow.
They argue the American frontier allowed individualism to flourish as pioneers adopted democracy and equality and shed centuries-old European institutions such as royalty, standing armies, established churches and a landed aristocracy that owned most of the land.
Other nations had frontiers, but it did not shape them nearly as much as the American frontier did, usually because it was under the control of a strong national government.
South Africa, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and Australia had long frontiers, but they did not have "free land" and local control. Their edge did not shape their national psyches. In Australia, "mateship" and working together was valued more than individualism was in the United States. America was notably unusual due to an accepted wisdom that anyone—from poor immigrants upwards—who worked hard, could aspire to similar standing, regardless of circumstances of birth.
This aspiration is commonly called living the American dream. Birth details were not taken as a social barrier to the upper echelons or high political status in American culture. This stood in contrast to other countries where many larger offices were socially determined, and usually hard to enter without being born into the suitable social group.
American men born into the lowest income quintile are much more likely to stay there compared to similar people in the Nordic countries or the United Kingdom.
Gregory Mankiw , however, state that the discrepancy has little to do with class rigidity; rather, it is a reflection of income disparity: "Moving up and down a short ladder is a lot easier than moving up and down a tall one.
By the s, labor historians were emphasizing that the failure of a work party to emerge in the United States did not mean that America was exceptionally favorable grounds for workers.
By the late s, other academic critics started mocking the extreme chauvinism displayed by the modern usage of exceptionalism. Finally mids, colonial historians debated the uniqueness of the American experience in the context of British history. He identifies three main sub-types: "exemptionalism" supporting treaties as long as U. Bush administration — , the term was somewhat abstracted from its historical context. This new use of the term has served to confuse the topic and muddy the waters since its unilateralist emphasis, and actual orientation diverges somewhat from prior uses of the phrase.
A certain number of those who subscribe to "old-style" or "traditional American exceptionalism"—the idea that America is a more nearly exceptional nation than are others, that it differs qualitatively from the rest of the world and has a unique role to play in world history—also agree that the United States is and ought to be entirely subject to and bound by the public international law.
Indeed, recent research shows that "there is some indication for American exceptionalism among the [U. They considered themselves the chosen race, the superior race, etc. Such words and ideas pose extreme danger. Pease mocks American exceptionalism as a "state fantasy" and a "myth" in his book The New American Exceptionalism. His position called " Christian realism " advocated a liberal notion of responsibility that justified interference in other nations.
Reichard and Ted Dickson argue "how the development of the United States has always depended on its transactions with other nations for commodities , cultural values and populations". However, most of us imagined that our downfall, when it came, would be something grand and tragic. In , Flora Lewis said that "Talk of U. Baldwin claimed that the black underclass accounts for many of those few areas where a stark difference exists between the U.
In most cases in which this subject has been broached the similarities between the conflicting parties outweigh the differences. However, he adds, America is made exceptional by the intensity with which these characteristics are concentrated there. He grew up more as a globalist than an American. To deny American exceptionalism is in essence to deny the heart and soul of this nation.
That is what makes America different. That is what makes us exceptional. You are not going to like that term," Trump said. American exceptionalism has been a plank of the Republican Party Platform since
American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword
Seymour Martin Lipset