Skip to content
Politics & Current Affairs

The Folly of Exceptionalism

The United States clearly is like other countries in some respects and unlike them in other respects. Exceptionalism thus isn’t of much use as an analytic construct.

Exceptionalism has many negative effects. Here are some of the principal ones: It encourages the mistaken belief that American values and political institutions, because they are deemed superior to anyone else’s, will be readily accepted and understood by non-Americans. It makes it difficult for Americans to see the negative sides of what many non-Americans see, fairly or unfairly, in the United States. It thus is difficult for Americans to understand anti-Americanism. It encourages inconsistent one-way application of principles, which often provide another source of resentment of the United States.


Up Next
Good metaphors are expansive; they compare something we don’t understand, to something we do. You see in a new light both the object of interest and the substrate you rest it on.