Skip to comments.American Exceptionalism Questioned
Posted on 02/07/2013 12:34:56 PM PST by Academiadotorg
That an Ivy League historian takes exception to the idea of American Exceptionalism may not surprise. That the skeptic is not a man of the Left is rather noteworthy.
The term did not even exist until the middle of the Twentieth Century, University of Pennsylvania historian Walter McDougall claimed in remarks at the libertarian Cato Institute.
Alexis deTocqueville used it as an adjective but it did not get picked up, McDougall said.
The Catholic Church and the Communist International used the term in the early 20th Century, according to McDougall. Both the Church and the Communist party fretted over it as they were seeking converts.
Similarly, as McDougall recounts, leftists in the 1930s used it as a term of derision. Only in the 1950s, as McDougall lays out the history, did AE get favorable mentions, coinciding with the Cold War.
McDougall is the author of several books, including Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era 1829-1879.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia. If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
I, too, have come to doubt American exceptionalism....since November 4, 2008.
Seems to me we’re now becoming a lot like the former great powers of Europe I’m sorry to say.
Let’s start out by having a definition on which we can all agree.
No wonder. We have about 315 million Americans, most of which were born in this Country, yet we "selected" a kenyan, affirmative action promotee to infest the oval office.
I think McDougall (or perhaps Kline) needs to put some meat on those bones. He mentions several examples of times the term has been used. He has no "take" on it at all. In what sense does he question AE? The title makes that claim, but offers nothing to back it up.
There's a lot of confusion here. Some people who argue for "American exceptionalism" want us to be an exceptional model for the rest of the world, but really the logic of "American exceptionalism" is that the rest of the world is on one path and we are on another that others can't or won't follow.
There's a contradiction between what people are actually saying and what they think they're saying. That's why it was a mistake to use the phrase as a political slogan.
Healthy countries don't spend time discussing whether they are unique and exceptional or not. Either they take it for granted that they are, or they don't waste time with such arguments and concentrate on the values they do have.
That’ll never happen, anymore than we’ll ever agree on what constitutes “liberty,” “democracy,” “capitalism,” etc. Okay, maybe it’s more likely than for those, but still fat chance.
To my mind we were special, long ago. That ended either in 1861, 1913, or 1932. Not sure which.
I didn’t just come in on a load of turnips but isn’t Accuracy in Academia an oxymoron.
If we can’t agree on defining it, then what are we fighting for? Some undefined Utopia like the Communists?
I never thought of exceptionalism as something to fight for. It’s not something that I heard conservatives talking about very often until recently when libs started denying it. Except in the case of the “city on a hill” metaphor, as reiterated by Reagan, which held us up as an example for the world. But I never much agreed with that. I never was a Puritan.
What we fight for is certain set of principles, not always exactly the same principles from conservative to conservative. If there’s any one thing we all agree on it’s the government’s resppnsibility to the Constitution. Not that we agree on what the Constitution says.
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