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

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

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

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

Synopsis

An English political scientist transplanted to America examines the question of American exceptionalism. Is the politics of the U. S. really all that different from politics in other advanced industrial democracies? Does America have more in common with other modern democracies than with its own past? To answer these questions, Graham K. Wilson selects several major areas of comparison: the size and scope of government, the nature of beliefs about politics and government, subjects of political debate, patterns of public policy, and the character of political institutions. Refuting the traditional theory of path dependency, Wilson's conclusions challenge the reader to question popular beliefs about American politics and consider new interpretations of international political experience.

Excerpt

The United States arouses strong feelings. It is a country whose citizens are among the most patriotic in the world, convinced that their nation's political institutions and society are the most admirable. Yet the United States has also been the object of a torrent of criticism from other countries. the left in Europe long disdained it as the most capitalist of advanced industrial democracies, the nation in which business was least constrained by the state or unions; the American state was too weak to limit the power of business (even if it had wished to do so), and unions lacked the membership. European conservatives (until the 1970s) too were concerned with goals and values not well served by the market to approve of American society, and in consequence they tended to view the United States with disdain almost equal to the left's. Conservatives feared the consequences of mass culture (epitomized for them by Hollywood) unconstrained by elitism of the sort that brought Britain state-subsidized theater and the bbc and classical music. For the left, the masses in the United States were powerless in the face of the dominance of capitalism; for the conservatives, the masses were too powerful, producing a coarse, anti-intellectual, and culturally impoverished society. Both left and right agreed that the United States provided a dreadful warning, not a model, for the rest of the world.

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