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American Exceptionalism: The Effects of…

American Exceptionalism: The Effects of Plenty on the American Experience (2002)

by Arnon Gutfeld

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This is a readable, but very academic book. Gutfeld shares the habits of many academics, in that he generally presents a history based on examination of the previous views of other academics, then tweaking them slightly and searching history for material that justifies his twists. Now let’s look at his ‘exceptionalism’.

Gutfield believes that America was exceptional based on ideas of the Enlightenment, and its frontier. It was (and is?) unique from other countries in that very few people faced seemingly unlimited resources, while all other countries faced limited resources and too many people. This situation drove an extremely violent people from coast to coast. He takes as an instance of that violence the ‘genocidal’ wars against the Indians. He also believes that, if it ever existed, that exceptionalism ended with the end of the frontier in the early twentieth century.

As should be obvious from the above, I strongly disagree with many of his conclusions. Yet he does present a clear and basically an outsider’s view of American history, and argues his case well. The work is of value in helping to understand the differences in American and European views, but its usefulness may be limited to those who really enjoy academic history books. ( )
  ServusLibri | May 25, 2009 |
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