Is America still exceptional?
Considering five misconceptions about American exceptionalism

American Flag flowing by Shutterstock.com

  • Title:

    American Exceptionalism
  • Paperback Price:

    3.95
  • Paperback ISBN:

    9780844772646
  • 70 Paperback pages
  • Buy the Book

Article Highlights

  • 5 misconceptions about American exceptionalism.

    Tweet This

  • American exceptionalism does not imply that America is excellent.

    Tweet This

  • American exceptionalism refers to qualities first observed in our early history.

    Tweet This

  • American exceptionalism is a fact of America’s past, not something that you can choose whether to “believe in.”

    Tweet This

  • Even if we are not as exceptional today as we once were, this does not mean the idea of American exceptionalism is irrelevant.

    Tweet This

 

 


Is America Still Exceptional?
Considering Five Misconceptions about American Exceptionalism

MISCONCEPTION:


REALITY:

 

The idea of American exceptionalism was first fostered by Americans.

American exceptionalism is a concept that was shared by observers throughout the Western world — not just Americans. The founders certainly believed they were creating something of extraordinary significance, but it was foreigners who took the lead in describing the United States as being unlike all other countries, and her people unlike those they encountered in other lands.

MISCONCEPTION:

 


REALITY:

American exceptionalism implies American superiority.



The concept of American exceptionalism has become associated with emotions and value judgments — a kind of jingoism for those who disapprove, or patriotism for those who approve. But American exceptionalism does not imply that America is excellent. Even those who see American traits as positive must also acknowledge shameful aspects of our history, including slavery; the extermination of Native Americans; and the current American obsession with money, possessions, and power.

MISCONCEPTION

 

REALITY:

American exceptionalism is permanent.



American exceptionalism refers to qualities first observed in our early history. There is no reason that these same qualities necessarily still apply today, and the extent to which they do is an empirical question. Though America still has exceptional aspects today, it is no longer the unique outlier that amused, amazed, and bemused the rest of the world from its founding through the first half of the 20th century.

MISCONCEPTION

 

REALITY:

American exceptionalism is subjective.



American exceptionalism is a fact of America's past, not something that one can choose to "believe in" any more than one can choose whether to believe in the Battle of Gettysburg. Understanding its meaning is indispensable for anyone who wants to understand what it has historically meant to be an American.

MISCONCEPTION

 

REALITY:

American exceptionalism is an outdated idea that is no longer relevant.


Even if we are not as exceptional today as we once were, this does not mean that the idea of American exceptionalism is irrelevant. Quite the contrary: it is one of our most important duties as American citizens to consider whether the changes in American exceptionalism are for better or worse. Only after we more clearly understand our beginnings can we know what we want for America’s future.

 

Based on American Exceptionalism: An Experiment in History by Charles Murray (AEI Press, 2013)
   
Learn more at www.aei.org/AmericanExceptionalism
Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Charles
Murray

What's new on AEI

Holder will regret his refusal to obey the Constitution
image 'Flood Wall Street' climate protesters take aim at their corporate allies
image 3 opportunities for better US-India defense ties
image Is Nicolás Maduro Latin America's new man at the United Nations?
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 29
    MON
  • 30
    TUE
  • 01
    WED
  • 02
    THU
  • 03
    FRI
Thursday, October 02, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Campbell Brown talks teacher tenure

We welcome you to join us as Brown shares her perspective on the role of the courts in seeking educational justice and advocating for continued reform.

Friday, October 03, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Harnessing the power of markets to tackle global poverty: A conversation with Jacqueline Novogratz

AEI welcomes you to this Philanthropic Freedom Project event, in which Novogratz will describe her work investing in early-stage enterprises, what she has learned at the helm of Acumen, and the role entrepreneurship can play in the fight against global poverty.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.