03 October 2010

American exceptionalism

Dinesh D'Souza excoriates Barack Obama for not believing in "American exceptionalism" -- D'Souza is unhappy that "when asked at a 2009 press conference whether he believed in this ideal, Obama said no. America, he suggested, is no more unique or exceptional than Britain or Greece or any other country."

Frankly, I don't see that Obama is out of line there. Just to take one related point for discussion, I don't believe the founders of the United States were exceptionalists about what they were doing.

The wording they used in creating a new nation suggests that this sort of breaking of bonds is a broad category of event, and 1776 was one item within that category. They didn't write, "we are creating something brand new in the world here," but, rather, that the new United States was (were!) assuming a "separate and equal station" with other powers, many of whom (notably Holland, an example always on the minds of our founders) had broken away from someone else earlier in their history.

So far as I know, exceptionalism was a fairly recent development in American history. After the rise of Marxist ideology in Europe, it became fashionable on the left to say that revolutions and all that dialectical/dictatorial stuff won't be necessary in America, where it will be possible (these outrageous intellectuals thought) to create a socialist centrally planned paradise without all that nasty conflict-ridden stuff. Because America never had a feudal stage so it is exceptional. The right took the idea over from the left, because some of the neocons had had a Lovestonean phase in their youth.

Google the name "Jay Lovestone" for more information.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.