Value in Social Theory: A Selection of Essays on Methodology

By Gunnar Myrdal; Paul Streeten | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
AMERICAN IDEALS AND THE AMERICAN CONSCIENCE

1. THE AMERICAN CREED 01

I N spite of, or perhaps because of, the heterogeneity of the American nation, there is a strong unity and basic stability in its valuations. America has a more explicit political creed than any other Western nation. The discovery of what we shall call the American Creed transforms the cacophony into a melody.

Not only is the American system of ideals the most explicitly formulated, but all vehicles of communication are mobilized to indoctrinate everyone with its principles. The schools teach them, the churches preach them, the courts announce them in their decisions. The Supreme Court pays its homage when it declares what is constitutional. Editorials, articles, and public addresses all reflect this idealism.

The Negro people share this creed and are under its spell, not merely pleading with it for their rights, but half believing, as do many whites, that it actually guides America. The ideals of the dignity of the individual, fundamental equality, and certain inalienable rights to freedom, justice, and fair opportunity, were written into the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the constitutions of the states.

The American Creed is identified with America's peculiar brand of nationalism, and it gives the American his feeling of the historical mission of his country in the world. American nationalism carries an international message. This national feeling of pride, and responsibility for the world, has been

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01
This section is a brief summary of Chapter 1 of An American Dilemma.

-65-

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