The First New Nation: The United States in Historical States in Historical and Comparative Perspective

By Seymour Martin Lipset | Go to book overview

10
Epilogue: Some Personal
Views on Equality,
Inequality, and Compara-
tive Social Science

This book has had two major purposes, a substantive one and a methodological one. The second purpose is discussed later in this chapter. Substantively, it has sought to present a perspective on American society, first, by looking at it historically and, second, by showing how it differs from other modern Western States. Essentially, I have argued that the American Creed, with its emphasis on equality and opportunity, is still a dynamic part of the culture. The concern for equality still determines how Americans interact with each other. The "other-directedness" of Americans, the flattery, the use of first names among people who hardly know each other or are in a superior—subordinate relation, the elaborate efforts to avoid hurting the feelings of others, all reflect the fact that deeply rooted in our values is the mandate that all men should respect one another.

The accounts of visitors from abroad continue to support the contention that the two emphases, on equality (respect for others) and achievement (competition), are clearly linked together in the United States. Recently, some Canadian academic friends who spent a year in California told me how impressed they were with the effect of one year in an American junior high school on the outlook of their eleven‐

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