American Exceptionalism

By Volker Depkat

American Exceptionalism book cover
Added December 7, 2021

The idea that America is exceptional, whether because of its founding creed, natural abundance, or Protestant origins, has been the subject of fierce debate going back to the founding. Rather than argue for one side or the other, Volker Depkat explores the diverse ways in which Americans have described their country as exceptional. Describing how narratives of exceptionalism have never been a purely American affair, Depkat shows how, for example, European, African, and Asian immigrants projected their own dreams and nightmares onto the American screen, contributing to the intellectual construction of America. In fact, the different groups living in America have described American exceptionalism in such differing terms that there hardly ever was a shared understanding as to what these exceptional experiences were and how to interpret them. What has unified the disparate exceptionalist narratives, Depkat explains, is their insistence on America's universalist and future-oriented way of life. In engaging and lucid prose, Depkat offers general readers and students of American history an invaluable lens through which they can evaluate for themselves the merits of the many ways in which Americans have understood their country as exceptional.

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