Only in America? The Politics of the United States in Comparative Perspective

By Graham K. Wilson | Go to book overview

While these arguments are not without merit, they are surely somewhat selective in their treatment of American history. German was spoken in Milwaukee at least as commonly before 1917 as Spanish is spoken in Miami today. Television and the need to succeed in national labor markets surely impel ambitious students to acquire a command of English today even more than when labor markets and communities were more local. In a world in which teenagers in Mexico can repeat the lines (in English) from popular American television shows or Hollywood movies, it is surely unlikely that teenagers of Mexican origin in the United States itself will be cut off from English. Finally, no matter how great the differences between groups of Americans seem today, those between nineteenth-century Americans--northerners and southerners, Irish immigrants and WASPs, German Americans, and Russian immigrants--were at least as great. Outside the United States, many fear that local cultures will be homogenized into the American culture, or, to use Benjamin Barber's term, that a McWorld will destroy other cultures. 16 It is odd that in the United States many doubt that the incredibly powerful cultural forces of Hollywood and television so feared abroad will prevail in the United States itself.


Conclusion

It would appear that news of the death of the American model has been greatly exaggerated. If so, the implications for the world as well as for the United States are important. Most advanced industrialized democracies have become much more ethnically, culturally, and racially diverse since World War II. Some 5 percent of the British population is nonwhite; France, Germany, and even Sweden all have significant minority populations. There is no evidence that as yet any of these countries has been more successful than the United States in managing relations between different races or ethnic groups. Seymour Martin Lipset often reminds us in his writings that the best and worst features of American life are connected; 17 the same values that encourage individual success, for example, may also help explain why the United States has a high crime rate. Perhaps a similar observation might serve as a conclusion to this chapter. Americans have clung to traditional beliefs in small government and an individualist ethic even while their government has grown much larger. Yet adherence to tra

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Only in America? The Politics of the United States in Comparative Perspective
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Preface v
  • I - Difference 1
  • 2 - Cultural Interpretations of American Politics 17
  • 3 - The Content of American Politics 41
  • 4 - The Size of Government 60
  • 5 - E Pluribus . . .? 86
  • Conclusion 101
  • 6 - Institutions 103
  • Conclusion 125
  • 7 - Conclusion 126
  • Appendix 133
  • Notes 147
  • References 157
  • Index 163
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