Exceptional America: Newness and National Identity by Philip Abbott

By Philip Abbott

The idea that the USA isn't just various yet «exceptional» is a valuable element of yankee identification that looks within the speeches and writings of John Winthrop to Martin Luther King Jr. to Ronald Reagan. but how and why the USA is outstanding has produced generally various solutions. Philip Abbott alters this debate through arguing that americans are the way in which they speak. He examines American exceptionalism as a preoccupation with «newness» in either politics and tradition and lines its impression in a chain of significant American political texts, together with the Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers, Democracy in the US, Walden, The Souls of Black Folk, and diverse novels and speeches.

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The charge that exceptionalism universalizes through parochialization is thus an accurate description of the exceptionalist enterprise as long as we realize that such theories also move, as do Jameson’s and Mather’s, in the opposite direction and that the exceptionalist project Contemporary Critiques 27  itself demands no special affective relationship between the interpreter and the subject. Attempts at periodization compute this systematic ambiguity. America as a definitional moving target, shifting from the periphery to the center of world events on the basis of a theoretical periodization until America as a category ultimately explodes, admit such a wide variety of variations, as Jameson’s and Mather’s efforts illustrate, that the periodization exercise itself seems to collapse from the power of its own transparadigmatic capacity.

He once recommended that young men not study abroad lest they be corrupted by European society. His great foray into partisan politics in 1800 was occasioned by his belief that Federalist “monocrats” plotted the Europeanization of America. Disturbingly ambivalent on the slavery question, Jefferson is also the utopian exceptionalist par excellence. None of the founders held a more jaded view of the American experiment of 1787 than Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, in fact, brilliantly and covertly sought to Europeanize the American constitution through his emphasis on judicial review and the presidency as saving remnants of aristocracy.

40 Shklar admits that each of these founders (and their respective political sciences) failed to deal with central problems of repression in America, particularly black chattel slavery. ”41 It is certainly true that the founding produced three great distinct models of political science, but a complete account of these projects Contemporary Critiques 31  would include the central role that American Exceptionalism plays in each. It is difficult to undere st imate the role that American Exceptionalism played in Jefferson’s theory, as we shall outline in more detail in chapter three.

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