Saturday, November 19, 2011

What is "American Exceptionalism"?

I've asked this on one or two of the blogs I frequent. Although most denizens of these blogs will assert that President Obama doesn't believe in American Exceptionalism and liberals in general don't believe in American Exceptionalism, when I've asked them to define it, they haven't even tried. I suppose their attitude is, "If you don't know, I'm not going to tell you." (Yes, Dear.)

But I want to know what THEY think it is, so I'm asking the question:

What is American Exceptionalism? What does it mean and how is American Exceptionalism manifested?



Blogger Mark said...

Believe it or not, Jim, I fully intended to answer your question but I spaced it out.

According to Wikipedia, a source that is arguably biased depending on who supplies the definition,

"American exceptionalism refers to the theory that the United States is qualitatively different from other countries. In this view, America's exceptionalism stems from its emergence from a revolution, becoming 'the first new nation,' and developing a uniquely American ideology, based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire. This observation can be traced to Alexis de Tocqueville, the first writer to describe the United States as 'exceptional' in 1831 and 1840. 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.'

The specific term 'American exceptionalism' was first used in 1929 by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin chastising members of the American Communist Party for believing that America was independent of the Marxist laws of history 'thanks to its natural resources, industrial capacity, and absence of rigid class distinctions.'"

I would agree with that definition except for the obviously sneering tone. The writer appears to scoff at the notion of exceptionalism, while at the same time accurately describing the beliefs of Americans in general. It's almost as if he feels guilty for thinking his country is better than any other country.

My answer would be less complicated. America better embodies the principles of Freedom, Liberty, and equality, than other nations, so much so, in fact, that other countries in the world have sought to emulate our system of Government. Japan, Germany, China, The former Soviet Union, and many others have abandoned their former systems of government in favor of a government more like our own Constitutional Republic. If America wasn't exceptional, why would other countries try to emulate us?

On the other hand, American exceptionalism can be taken to far. Espe4cially in eschotological terms. I have pointed this out before. For instance, why do so any Americans believe the anti-Christ will be an American? Why do they think the end of the world as we know it will be directly affected by America? In the overall scheme of things, America, with it's relatively short history in comparison to most nations, probably has little to do with the end times prophecies.

I'll have more to say, perhaps, after I've seen what others have to say.

4:06 PM, November 19, 2011  
Blogger Dad29 said...

Since I'm not particularly enthused by the concept, I won't have much to say. I think the Wiki def is prolly a good one--if one believes in the concept.

5:35 PM, November 19, 2011  
Blogger Marshal Art said...

Frankly, I was expecting YOUR definition. But thanks for the invite. I'll have to get back to you.

7:48 PM, November 19, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was expecting yours, too. always sneers at anything the truth forces them to admit about AMerica

12:28 PM, November 23, 2011  
Blogger Jim said...


I started this thread here because I have asked on all my favorite blogs for people's definition of the term since they often opine that it exists and that some people don't believe that it does.

I asked and got no response there. So I thought I'd try a different approach.

3:11 PM, November 23, 2011  
Blogger Jim said...

I would agree with that definition except for the obviously sneering tone.

Obviously sneering tone? Sounds paranoic to me. I found the entry balanced and neutral.

On the other hand, many people will tell you that the truth has a liberal bias. :-)

3:16 PM, November 23, 2011  

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