Exceptional America: Newness and National Identity by Philip Abbott

By Philip Abbott

The idea that the USA is not just diverse yet «exceptional» is a relevant point 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 US is phenomenal has produced largely different solutions. Philip Abbott alters this debate by way of 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 strains its effect in a chain of serious 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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Despite the flaws in both these formulations, the accounts of Jameson and Shklar nevertheless show us a route to explore America Exceptionalism. For both writers illustrate a pattern common to all Contemporary Critiques 41  American texts. That is, they both involve a strategy that acknowledges and secludes America in terms of newness. The Shklar/Jameson strategy is to attempt to capture America as sign—late capital/democracy—and attach newness to the sign rather than to America itself.

He also grasped the nature of the institutional limitations on leadership advanced by Madison. But Lincoln radically transformed all these visions of political science. While he claimed “all power to Jefferson” and paid extravagant obeisance to the founders, Henry Clay was Lincoln’s exemplar. Yet his vision was quite different from the Whig program for an American system of roads, canals, and tariffs because Lincoln gave the national idea a religious reconceptualization. America as a nation was engaged in a unique experiment not only in substance (it was a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal) but in plan (it was a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal).

William Peden (New York: Norton, 1972), 139. 45 Federalist Papers, 101. , Morton J. Frisch (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1985), 290–91. 47 Shklar, “Redeeming American Political Theory,” 9. ” See Daniel Walker Howe, The Political Culture of the American Whigs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979) who discusses the Whig agenda in redemptive terms and emphasizes the “modernist” aspects of their project. 49 Shklar, “Redeeming American Political Theory,” 10. 50 Daniel Webster, “Speeches in the Senate of the United States on the Resolution of Mr.

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