American Exceptionalism is a pervasive force in the United States. Since the founding Americans have believed themselves to be freer than the other nations of the globe. It is a philosophy which can been seen on both the political right and left in the United States. This exceptionalism has given Americans a feeling of almost divine mission, but is it in any way justified?
No, America is not exceptionalShow moreShow less
America being exceptional is a national myth which is inconsistent with the reality of global history.
American history is not at all distinct from the history of nation-building across the world. From its inception United States has been the product of global forces and trends. The American revolution was based in Enlightenment ideas brought from Europe. Thomas Bender in A Nation Among Nations argues that as one explores the history of the United States in the nineteenth century there is little that is distinct. For example, while the Civil War was an incredibly violent instance of emancipation, between the 1810s and the 1880s states throughout Europe and the New World abolished slavery. Similarly, American imperialists in the Philippines and Puerto Rico at the end of century, closely modelled themselves on other European Empires.
Americans were also deeply involved in global political movements and the struggles for causes like increased workers’ rights, women’s suffrage, and temperance exist in global contexts. Advocates for these causes worked across borders, borrowing tactics, meeting, and drawing on the same literature, to change national politics. American history cannot be viewed in isolation from larger global movements and trends.
[P1] American history has been shaped by global political trends.
[P2] While American history is in some ways distinct, like all national histories are, it cannot be separated from this global context.