The Economist: America’s particularities will survive George Bush

Posted by Kendall Harmon

IT IS exceptionalism week in the world of American think-tanks. No fewer than three of them—the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, and the Manhattan Institute in New York City—have arranged discussions of a fat new book on the subject, “Understanding America: The Anatomy of an Exceptional Nation”, edited by Peter Schuck and James Q. Wilson. But, as Hegel feared, do the thinkers understand a concept just as it stops being relevant? Does the owl of Minerva really fly only at dusk?

All countries are exceptional. But America likes to think of itself as exceptionally exceptional, different from other advanced industrial countries not just in its social arrangements but also in its underlying values. America has a smaller state than other comparable countries and a more unequal distribution of wealth. It is also more strongly committed to what Margaret Thatcher once called “Victorian values”—individualism, voluntarism, patriotism.

American exceptionalism has been increasing ever since the rise of the modern conservative movement from the late 1960s onwards. The current Bush administration, with its commitment to conservative values at home and assertiveness abroad, is the most exceptional administration in recent years. But the book raises a new question: is a new cycle, dominated by a rejection of conservatism and a convergence with West European norms, about to dawn?

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Filed under: * International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

Posted April 26, 2008 at 4:51 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Juandeveras wrote:

Rather naive view of America.

April 27, 4:17 am | [comment link]
2. libraryjim wrote:

The real question is can the US survive the wave of Socialism that the new wave of candidates wants to bring down on us?

April 29, 2:59 pm | [comment link]
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