The End of the End of American Exceptionalism
Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Getty ImagesIn the weeks after January 6, an array of publications declared American exceptionalism dead, or nearly so.
“The End of the Road for American Exceptionalism,” said the Washington Post.
Even Richard Haass, head of the Council on Foreign Relations — once wellsprings to the cause of American exceptionalism — urged readers of Foreign Affairs to “put an end to the notion of American exceptionalism, of an eternal shining city on a hill.”As usual, though, it seemed the only way to declare American exceptionalism dead was to use the rhetoric of American exceptionalism: shining city on the hill, beacon of democracy, defender of the free world, something about World War II.
They believed anyone could be American, especially if equipped with advisers, corporations, and military regimes that forced the American way of life on their people.
In his essay “The End of American Exceptionalism,” the sociologist Daniel Bell somberly wrote, “Today, the belief in American exceptionalism has vanished with the end of empire, the weakening of power, the loss of faith in the nation’s future.” That was 1975.