In the Past Lane: Historical Perspectives on American Culture

By Michael Kammen | Go to book overview

7
The Problem of American Exceptionalism: A Reconsideration

National consciousness, which is not nationalism, is the only thing that will give us an international dimension.

-- Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth ( 1966)

Several new and important publications have appeared recently concerning a subject that has engaged many of us for decades -- one that we discuss with colleagues and advanced students on a regular basis.* I am inclined to suspect that we continue to do so largely because the issue remains so intriguing. One striking feature of the latest contributions is that they differ so radically among themselves. The most visibly polarized are Ian Tyrrell "American Exceptionalism in an Age of International History" (which repudiates American exceptionalism) and a collection of essays edited by Byron Shafer entitled Is America Different? A New Look at American Exceptionalism (which reaffirms the notion). Moreover, I have

____________________
*
This essay was presented on April 3, 1992, at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Chicago.

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