Talk:American exceptionalism

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Former featured article candidate American exceptionalism is a former featured article candidate. Please view the links under Article milestones below to see why the nomination failed. For older candidates, please check the archive.
August 4, 2013 Featured article candidate Not promoted

Millitary Comparison Source: Does America really have the finest military in the world?[edit]

Are there any other articles on this? -- (talk) 08:08, 13 January 2011 (UTC)
  • The fact of the matter is that America has far sharper weapons in its arsenal than its overt and covert armed forces. Just one example of this can be found right here: The instructional videos and explanations on how to properly execute the famous "Judy Chop" and the "Karaty Chop", are self-explanatory bastions of American Exceptionalism. Nobody else has Diemon Dave and if push comes to shove, they can send him to sort out the enemy.--Achim (talk) 23:20, 22 September 2013 (UTC)

Ongoing problems with this article[edit]

It's important that an article of this type is objectively about the subject and not written as a promotion (or the reverse!). A number of sections have been tagged since 2009, without (apparently) any attempt to resolve particular issues. I intend to delete obviously dubious passages within the next few days. Please feel free to comment etc. as necessary. Regards etc. --Kleinzach 01:56, 24 January 2011 (UTC)

Looking forward to your pruning. Binksternet (talk) 02:13, 24 January 2011 (UTC)
If in doubt, take it out. TFD (talk) 02:27, 24 January 2011 (UTC)

Comments from Olaf Du Pont[edit]

Thank you for the comments made on an article by me quoted in the discussion. The purpose of the contribution was to show that certain concepts/metaphors can change through time and/or be interpreted to suit different agendas.

The examples taken from speeches of President Bush, Gov. Schwarzenegger and Mayor Giulliani have been taken to show:

1. that the metaphor of 'a city upon a hill' is used in current political rhetoric 2. that the metaphor has been used widely in American politics, starting from, but not limited to the Puritans 3. that the metaphor has been used through time to refer to strictly Christian, religious contexts (a convenant with God), as well as in more 'civil religion/patriotic' contexts 4. that the metaphor has been used as a crutch for various, diverging and even competing views, including foreign policy 5. that these examples illustrate the power of images and metaphors and that their widespread use acts as a kind of flag identifying the speaker, in this case as somebody who holds American tradition in high respect, but that the underlying message can be very diverse

With this aim in mind, I wish to not pronounce myself on the nature of American exceptionalism, but merely point out that a metaphor that is used to describe this fluid concept can be used as a rhetorical strategy for a whole array of political ends. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Olafdp (talkcontribs) 10:16, 1 February 2011 (UTC)

That is a more modest goal than was taken by an editor here who used your paper to say that American exceptionalism was founded on an entitlement from God, supposedly given to the Pilgrims if they kept the faith. This idea is not mainstream in AE: mainstream thought is that de Tocqueville saw in Americans a sense of equality. There was nothing religious in the first appreciations of AE.
I have disputed your paper in previous talk page discussions: Deleting Noonan, Twain, Sellevold, Du Pont, and "But we’re American...": a paper by Olaf Du Pont. I do not think your paper can be used very much in this article, if at all, because its ideas are too far from mainstream thought, and are not yet important enough to qualify as a significant minority viewpoint. If you wrote a book and it was well-reviewed and cited by others then that would make your opinion more notable. Right now, there is nothing from you in the article, but that could change in the future. Binksternet (talk) 16:24, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

International perspective on American exceptionalism[edit]

It would be highly interessting to know what political scientists in other western countries think on it. A mere US perspective ist POV at its finest. Any sources?-- (talk) 15:57, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

We generally think of scholarship as international and to divide scholars into Americans and non-Americans would imply a bias. If there were sources that claimed this of course we could mention it. For your information, Canadian scholars Gad Horowitz and George Grant supported the thesis, while New Zealander J. G. A. Pocock writing is used to reject the theory. TFD (talk) 16:59, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

Communist Party USA in lead[edit]

A new editor has been removing referenced text in the lead section saying the following:

The term "American exceptionalism" itself was first used by members of the American Communist Party in the 1920s, in reference to their belief that "thanks to its natural resources, industrial capacity, and absence of rigid class distinctions, America might for a long while avoid the crisis that must eventually befall every capitalist society." (Fried, Albert, Communism in America: A History in Documents. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), p. 7.)

There are two problems with the removal:

  • The text satisfies WP:LEAD which requires us to summarize the article's contents in the lead section. Indeed, the text refers to a section of the article which discusses the reaction of communists to America's strength.
  • The text is taken from Albert Fried, a top scholar in his field. He would not misrepresent the topic.

The removed section should be restored. Binksternet (talk) 14:24, 2 June 2011 (UTC)

I have restored it. The editor should explain why it should be removed. I noticed the editor's comments on other users' talk pages. While double sourcing is required by newspapers, it is not required here because we rely on sources that have already undertaken fact-checking, e.g., newspapers that require double sourcing. And no, there is nothing in the article that contradicts the view that American Communists were the first to use the term. TFD (talk) 22:36, 2 June 2011 (UTC)
agreed. Rjensen (talk) 23:14, 2 June 2011 (UTC)
The problem is, the link that is cited in this instance, in no way claims that the Communists were the "first" to use the phrase. Hence, not only should the "first" be removed from the quote, the quote should be removed from the summary area. Alexis de Tocqueville mentioned the exceptionalism of America well before the 1920's. The term comes from his work. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:31, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
The Communists were the source of the term, while De Tocqueville never used the term "exceptionalism". TFD (talk) 02:02, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Should I just take your word for it? Or do you have a reference that actually makes that claim? Nowhere in the Fried reference does it say that American Communists were the first to say "American exceptionalism". Am I missing something here? — Preceding unsigned comment added by JohnnyJ160 (talkcontribs) 13:59, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
If you can find an earlier reference to the term "American exceptionalism", then please provide one. TFD (talk) 14:03, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
So, because you say that American Communists were "first", I have to prove that they weren't? I'm relatively new to this, but please explain to me, why you shouldn't have to prove that they were. — Preceding unsigned comment added by JohnnyJ160 (talkcontribs) 14:13, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
My reading, and that of other editors, of the source is that the Communists were first to use the term. If the source is wrong, then it should possible to find a source that dates the use of the term earlier. TFD (talk) 14:18, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
The burden of proof is on the editor making the change, particularly in a case where sourced material is being removed. Acroterion (talk) 14:20, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
The American Communists are the first group that can be found who directly used the exact term "American exceptionalism". If you find an earlier usage you can replace the American Communists as being first to use the term. Binksternet (talk) 14:31, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Here (p. 58) is a link to a more detailed discussion of the origins of the term. TFD (talk) 14:38, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
That is perfect! That's all I was asking for. Though the reference clearly says that Stalin was the origin of the phrase, when the original section claims that American Communists were the first to use it. I'm not trying to be argumentative here, but doesn't this new source invalidate the old one? I don't have a problem with the Stalin origin being in the lead using this new source. I just didn't see the support for the claim that was being made using the old one. JohnnyJ160 (talk) 14:50, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Albert Fried describes how the term was first used by Joe Stalin, frustrated with America's unusual inherent resistance to (Communist) revolution. When he used it, Stalin was talking to the American Communists, trying to get them to push harder for revolution. The American Communists used the term back at Stalin. We don't have to throw out the original cite, just tweak it slightly. Binksternet (talk) 14:54, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Might replace the word "used" with "introduced". TFD (talk) 15:02, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
Again, I don't have a problem with any of that information being included, as long as whatever is done is properly supported by the references cited. Maybe citing both the Fried reference and the Pease reference at that point in the article would be appropriate. JohnnyJ160 (talk) 15:14, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Okay, I added some of Stalin being first, with the new reference tucked into the the previous text and references. Binksternet (talk) 17:55, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

Excellent. Thank you. JohnnyJ160 (talk) 20:02, 12 July 2011 (UTC)


Although the term does not imply superiority, some neoconservative writers have used it in that sense.(Seymour Martin Lipset, American Exceptionalism, 1997, pp. 17-19)

An editor has added the highlighted term "neoconservative"[1] although it does not appear in Lipset's original text. We should not change the meaning of the sources used, and therefore I will remove the term. (The editor asked me in his edit summary to find a source to support his edit.) TFD (talk) 00:16, 25 July 2011 (UTC)


"...American exceptionalism dates back to the seventeenth century, when religious exiles fancied the colonies a new Jerusalem ordained to Christianize a pagan land..."

Further Reading: Stephen Glain: "State vs. Defense: The Battle to Define America's Empire",2011-- (talk) 17:13, 31 July 2011 (UTC)

a) yes there are colonial hints and roots; b) the 17th century usage did NOT use the terms "American" or "exceptionalism" and did not have any concept whatever of the USA. Rjensen (talk) 20:46, 31 July 2011 (UTC)

POV in lede resurfaced[edit]

Once a year I revisit this article and every single time I find that the lead is tweaked and pruned again to present a decidedly sympathetic view of American exceptionalism -- with the significant domestic (circa 50%) and overwhelming international opposition & criticism to this thesis either downplayed or pruned completely. And by the same two users apparently. Any suggestions, or is it time to call some admins here? ᴳᴿᴲᴳᴼᴿᴵᴷᶤᶯᵈᶸᶩᶢᵉ 17:30, 11 December 2011 (UTC)

Once a year you find your editing work challenged because of the flaws it contains, such as your text not supported by your cites. Binksternet (talk) 17:56, 11 December 2011 (UTC)

Changes to the lead[edit]

This edit, which is captioned, "inflammatory material deleted from lede", removes mention of the "shining city on a hill", and adds "anti-Semitism... unfortunately influenced the U.S. Government's refusal to accept many Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust", although the source does not mention exceptionalism. It also adds that "many left-wing authors have rejected American exceptionalism", which does not reflect the source. I see no reason for these changes and ask that the editor explain them. TFD (talk) 17:43, 11 December 2011 (UTC)

POV changes unsupported by cited text. Binksternet (talk) 17:56, 11 December 2011 (UTC)
These two users, exactly. You guys are certainly tenacious, but we all know that your version of the article (and the lede) is so POV it's not even funny. ᴳᴿᴲᴳᴼᴿᴵᴷᶤᶯᵈᶸᶩᶢᵉ 11:49, 12 December 2011 (UTC)

Article makes a mockery of itself![edit]

"the well-being of ordinary people"

This phrase is ridiculous and should not be in the article! In USA ordinary people often go bankrupt due to medical costs. There is nothing to protect them from industrial environmental pollution and unhealthy food produced with max profit in sight. US popular culture ecourages shallowness in all human relations, so workforce can be easily uprooted and shuffled coast to coast to maximize profit. Crime rates are way too high. There is no paid holiday or sick leave in law and many salary-people spend years without ever seeing a weekday off-work. Negro ghettos still exist and the poor hispanics are quickly becoming the new slave-class in USA. How does all this constitute "the well-being of ordinary people"?

"The well-being of ordinary people" is much more characteristic of countries in Northern Europe or Singapore (maybe even Japan, although they work way too much). (talk) 13:17, 17 January 2012 (UTC)

The article does not say that the comments are true, merely that that is how they see themselves. In fact there is a segment of the American public that does want to expand accessibility to medical care, while others oppose popular culture. TFD (talk) 18:46, 17 January 2012 (UTC)

Stalin cite[edit]

Regarding this recent dispute about the claim of Stalin being the first in the English language to use the term. Because of my geographical location I do not have access to full text or even snippet view of this source, and the quoted text does not mention the term "American exceptionalism" at all. If the source does mention this term, it would be nice if people having full access to the cited source added the term to the quotation in the footnote. But of course if it doesn't mention this term it should not be a source for this claim. --Saddhiyama (talk) 00:11, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

Any Google Books search using the terms Stalin and American exceptionalism brings up a number of Books verifying this fact. I just added another with full page access. Δρ.Κ. λόγοςπράξις 00:15, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
Good job. Though my first try did result in a "This page is not accessible from your location", my next try did in fact open the linked page which verified the cite. It does indeed fully support the claim, so I withdraw my objections. Cheers. --Saddhiyama (talk) 00:23, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
Thank you, and cheers back. :) Δρ.Κ. λόγοςπράξις 00:50, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

I see nothing in Pease's notes which in any way supports his claim that Stalin used the phrase. I am not used to this interface, so forgive me if this is not formatted correctly. Why is an unsupported claim, even if it is from an "academic" source, a better source than Stalin's original speeches, which DO NOT use the phrase? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

Pease's assertion stands the test of being a scholar discussing something under his area of expertise: words and terms in English. We do not have to tear Pease apart to find the stuffing; there is no controversy or contradiction from another scholar saying that the term did not originate with Stalin or with Communism's attempt to describe America. Per WP:NOR, we are not going to try and figure out whether Pease was exactly correct or greatly mistaken. Pease is support enough for his own statement. Instead, we should look for other scholars who give contradictory information, or who directly rebut Pease. Binksternet (talk) 03:27, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

Stalin didn't say it.[edit]

I checked the original speeches. He discussed the CONCEPT of American exceptionalism, to disparage it, and to justify the purge of two members from CPUSA. He did NOT use the term. Please explain why a google book copy of a book that has the citations missing is considered a better source than the original source material? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:14, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

Please read our verification policy WP:V which clearly states if it can be verified by a reliable source it is good to go. What you are attempting to do is your own research; this is actively discouraged per our no original research policy. Δρ.Κ. λόγοςπράξις 02:24, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

Pease's own notes do not support his claim. I don't think anyone could reasonably conclude his book is a "reliable source" — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:56, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

This information is supported by two books and many more can be found. Just try this search on Google Books. However if you are still not convinced you may want to verify the reliability of these sources by asking at the reliable sources noticeboard. Δρ.Κ. λόγοςπράξις 03:08, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
Here's another another one: America's kingdom: mythmaking on the Saudi oil frontier Stanford studies in Middle Eastern and Islamic societies and cultures Author Robert VitalisEdition illustrated Publisher Stanford University Press, 2007 ISBN 0804754462, 9780804754460 Length 353 pages p. 7. Δρ.Κ. λόγοςπράξις 03:22, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
we all seem to agree that Stalin introduced the concept of "American Exceptionalism" -- he spoke in Russian not English of course. Here's a 1934 US Communist Party document that makes use of the English term: Political Affairs p 1034 Rjensen (talk) 03:23, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

"We" agree to no such thing. Stalin appears to have used the concept, but so far, I see no indication whatsoever that he used the phrase, and it would be even more absurd to claim he ORIGINATED it.--T.E.Watts — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:31, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

we agree he used the concept--in Russian of course. His use is the first one that historians have published--maybe someone used it earlier but until a RS discovers an earlier usage Wiki goes with what scholars now say. As the Communists said in 1934, "Especially should it be remembered that it was Stalin who led the fight against the theory of American exceptionalism, as far back as 1928, when it began to be defended by Lovestone." cite 1934 document Rjensen (talk) 03:37, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
(edit conflict × 3) The reliable sources that I have seen so far all agree with the fact that the term was coined by Stalin. Δρ.Κ. λόγοςπράξις 03:39, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

Fried does not say Stalin originated the phrase. Pease's notes do not support his own claim that he did. This is absurd.--T.E.Watts (talk) 04:00, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

"Absurd" is unwise language in a serious debate. Trotsky used the term in 1930: "The opportunism of Lovestone, Brandler, and their supporters lies in the fact that they demand recognition for ... of the inseparable bond between American "exceptionalism" and the "exceptionalism" of the other parts of the world." Trotsky 1930 online Rjensen (talk) 04:06, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
There is nothing here but hot air. I see no scholarly sources being brought forward to provide a rebuttal to Pease and Fried. Until I do it is a non-issue. Binksternet (talk) 04:13, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

Fried doesn't claim Stalin used the phrase. Pease's own notes do not support HIS claim that Stalin did. Rjensen's source attributes it to someone else altogether. His other source shows Trotsky using the phrase, which in no way supports the claim Stalin did. --T.E.Watts (talk) 04:23, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

I think the problem is that Watts does not trust scholarship--he has his own private views. Pease is Donald E. Pease is Avalon Foundation Professor of the Humanities at Dartmouth College, author of numerous books, and this one is published by Univ Of Minnesota Press; those outstanding credentials demonstrate he is a RS -- something Watts cannot handle. Watts has cited no sources to support his private views, and has cited no RS critical of Pease. The American Communist magazine in 1934 was pretty clear: "Especially should it be remembered that it was Stalin who led the fight against the theory of American exceptionalism, as far back as 1928, when it began to be defended by Lovestone." Rjensen (talk) 04:43, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
I agree with your comments. I think we should close this discussion. Δρ.Κ. λόγοςπράξις 04:47, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
We go with sources not OR. TFD (talk) 05:48, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

Federalism not the same as Exceptionalism/POV[edit]

Removed edits related to Federalism as they have nothing to do with this subject. My name is Mercy11 (talk) 18:35, 11 October 2012 (UTC), and I approve this message.

I have also added the POV tag. The article needs to be neutral, and certainly in the lead section. My name is Mercy11 (talk) 02:14, 17 October 2012 (UTC), and I approve this message.

you have to explain in detail what you mean--what sentence is not NPOV? Rjensen (talk) 03:15, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
One problem is this: The cherry-picking of a quote that, as it is not used in its entireity, distorts the meaning of the original text by making it more forceful than the RS author of the text (Seymour Martin Lipset in this case) actually spelled it out to be. The quote reads "'the first new nation,'...other than Iceland, to become independent"[1]. Political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset did not remove the clause "other than Ireland" from his quote; and neither should we. It is necessary, imo, to be neutral in the presentation, or else pick different citations that do support a certain viewpoint, but to cherry-pick just some sections of a quote while eliminating precisely those sections that, to a point, negate the view being presented, it not in compliance with WP:NPOV. My name is Mercy11 (talk) 03:46, 17 October 2012 (UTC), and I approve this message.
you can post the tag after you articulate what you see as the problem. The POV rules require that all major RS positions be represented, and I think that is the case. Is a position missing? Rjensen (talk) 03:39, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
The problem was articulated. If you required further explanation, that's something else. As to your "position" question, I explain one issue above. My name is Mercy11 (talk) 03:46, 17 October 2012 (UTC), and I approve this message.

I also took exception to edits such as THIS, which I had reverted and which were re-introduced days later. Those edits, aligned under the banners "Democracy" and "Immigration", fundamentally constitute WP:OR. They are a violation of WP:NPOV in that the editor is seeking to substantiate the "American exceptionalism" position by making his own tacit allusions that the introduction of federalism into American government equates to the introduction of American exceptionalism. That is nonsense: the two are not related (and even if the two were related, no citations are provided to establish that they are so linked). My name is Mercy11 (talk) 04:13, 17 October 2012 (UTC), and I approve this message.

If that is the only complaint? The text in dispute seems to follow closely the Lipset book--the main scholarly treatise on the subject. Mercy11 has to provide alternative views to make a POV argument. What alternative RS is missing? Rjensen (talk) 04:29, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
I agree with the generality of your edits, however, this is not an article about Lipset and/or his book. As such, if we are going to source primarily to Lipset, that would not be neutral, imo. We must find a balanced number of sources. We should be able to provide links to Lipset, but do so with, say, a couple of references, not a multitude of references. And if we must provide a multitude of Lipset references, then we need to justify, in the article and with citations, that others view Lipset as the "the main scholarly treatise on the subject". In any event, read on below (The Four Deuces/TFD.) My name is Mercy11 (talk) 13:40, 17 October 2012 (UTC), and I approve this message.
I disagree with the reversion of my edit and adding back "American exceptionalism is the belief that the United States is different from other countries in that it has a specific world mission to spread liberty and democracy.[citation needed]"[2] It is unsourced and is not supported by Lipset's book. The two sections on democracy and immigration appear to be original research. Exceptionalism is not the view that America is better, but the view that it is different. TFD (talk) 04:58, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
That first line has since been sourced,,, unless you are talking about the choice of word for the keyword belief/proposition/theory. Maybe that definition should be sourced -- verbatim-- to avoid the resemblance of POV. However, I am not sure you are saying that if something is not supported by Lipset, while it maybe supported by others, then it cannot be used. (????) That would be a show-stopper for me. My name is Mercy11 (talk) 13:40, 17 October 2012 (UTC), and I approve this message.
I'm unclear what the complaint is about Lipset. He wrote the single most important book on the subject which was well reviewed in the scholarly journals. He died a few years ago & was a very well regarded scholar, elected as president of both the Am. Political Science Association and the Am. Sociological Association. He wrote many studies over the years in comparative politics. The journals cite his work thousands of times. That's the kind or RS that Wikipedia is built upon. If scholars disagree with him they should be cited as such. Rjensen (talk) 16:36, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
I mentioned Seymour Martin Lipset because as Rjensen correctly stated, his book is "the main scholarly treatise on the subject". As Donald E. Pease an editor of the source now provided in support of the first sentence writes on page 90, "I follow Lipset's definition and his genealogical tracing of the concept of exceptionalism back to Tocqueville." The source (p. 207) does not support the statement, "American exceptionalism is the proposition that the United States... has a specific world mission to spread liberty and democracy." It says, "The Statue of Liberty signifies this proselytizing mission as the natural extension of America's sense of itself as an exceptional nation."[3] As it says in the lead, "Although the term does not necessarily imply superiority, many neoconservative and American conservative writers have promoted its use in that sense." The lead now contradicts itself. TFD (talk) 17:00, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
I am with both of you that Lipset needs to be awarded appropriate treatment in this article, and have no objection in that regard any longer. My other main concerns had been the inclusion of text, now removed, bringing on issues of federalism and somehow equating them with exceptionalism (like the immigration and democracy sections, etc). But, by the same token, we cannot, imo, use a symbol of America -- that is, the statue of liberty -- and equate it with American exceptionalism. We need to find better sources to support the claim that "American exceptionalism is the proposition that the United States... has a specific world mission to spread liberty and democracy." If not, then that is not what American exceptionsliam referes to, it is equivalent to OR, and must be changed.
Rjensen, I think the way to go with the introductory paragrapgh is to use The Four Duces's Lipset citation: it won't have the liberty and democracy reference but, then again, that does not appear to be the real definition of American exceptionalism, but instead the concept of being "qualitatively different" as Lipset states and Four Duces cites.
I also had a concern about the statement that America was the first new nation to become independent (it was actually Ireland).
TFD, so long as we either use the entire "other than Iceland" quote, I am OK. Otherwise, let's abandon the use of that quote altogether.
My name is Mercy11 (talk) 22:05, 24 October 2012 (UTC), and I approve this message.
Lipset uses "First New Nation" -- indeed it's the title of one of his books. Ireland becamer independent in 1922. On the "world mission to spread liberty and democracy" that is often indicated by RS: 1) see statement that Americans believed in a "historical mission. ... free from Europe's ills and an exemplar or model for the future progress of liberty and democracy" in Anthony Molho; Gordon S. Wood (1998). Imagined Histories: American Historians Interpret the Past. Princeton UP. p. 4.  2) "The Statue of Liberty signifies this proselytizing mission as the natural extension of America's sense of itself as an exceptional nation." in Winfried Fluck; Donald E. Pease; John Carlos Rowe (2011). Re-Framing the Transnational Turn in American Studies. UPNE. p. 207.  Rjensen (talk) 22:28, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
Since Lipset's description is in quotes, there is no need for us to factcheck. Lipset explained his comments in The First New Nation, p. 2, "The United States was the first major colony successfully to revolt against colonial rule. In this sense, it was the first "new nation."" Perhaps we could add that to a footnote. Certainly every nation was new at one time, but I imagine he is speaking about the modern world. Iceland's period of independence lasted from the 10th to the 13th centuries. I agree a lot of things such as federalism are not relevant. Much of this would apply equally to Canada, yet Lipset developed much of his understanding of American exceptionalism through comparison with Canada.
Re: America's mission. I think we need to distinguish "America's belief in its exceptionalism" and the belief that America is exceptional. One can believe that America believes it has a mission without actually believing that it has such a mission.
TFD (talk) 23:01, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
So what are you proposing the first paragraph read like? My name is Mercy11 (talk) 01:44, 25 October 2012 (UTC), and I approve this message.


  1. ^ American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword. Seymour Martin Lipset. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc. 1996. Page 18. ISBN: 0-393-03725-8. Retrieved 11 October 2012.

Unclear prose.[edit]

I have a bit of a comprehension issue with this passage:

The term "American exceptionalism" has been in use since at least the 1920s and saw more common use after Soviet leader Joseph Stalin chastised members of the Jay Lovestone-led faction of the American Communist Party for their heretical belief that America was independent of the Marxist laws of history "thanks to its natural resources, industrial capacity, and absence of rigid class distinctions." American Communists then started using the English translation in factional fights.[6][7]

Started using the English translation of what? Of Stalin's speech? Was it a speech? Or the phrase itself? I understand there's been some debate about what Stalin said, and I'm guessing this paragraph has been worked over pretty good, but it no longer makes much sense and ought to be rebooted. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:10, 9 November 2012 (UTC)

Seconded. I don't see a logical connection how the term is derived from Stalin's speech. --BjKa (talk) 14:11, 12 December 2012 (UTC)

Obama vs McCain[edit]

The article currently says "The phrase became an issue of contention between presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign". This is not helpful at all for anyone who hasn't followed the 2008 debates closely, and obviously unneccesary for anyone who has. You should state what the positions were on the issue, or else leave out the remark altogether. --BjKa (talk) 14:09, 12 December 2012 (UTC)

Christian Realism[edit]

Wikipedia link to Reinhold Niebuhr's article? Gprobins (talk) 19:21, 14 December 2012 (UTC)

Disputed text[edit]

An IP continues to add a paragraph that says the US is ""mediocre on a global scale" in rate of educational improvement, distribution of wealth, health care, infrastructure, and welfare of the middle class." He argues that because the source is called "Exceptionally Mediocre on a Global Scale," it is relevant to the article.[4] However the author is not talking about the same topic. Ironically, the differences in the U.S. in these areas are evidence of its exceptionalism. TFD (talk) 21:20, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

Agreed. I read the source and it is very poorly done political polemic by a non-expert, often based on irrelevant sources. (for example, the author (Hightower) says "In a category that not long ago was a source of great national strength and pride, our middle class is being hollowed out" and uses an editorial that has no mention of any other country. The source on health care is 50% about the financing of health care and downgrades the US for spending $$$$ on it. Rjensen (talk) 21:56, 22 July 2013 (UTC)
The article is very clearly within scope of the article topic, as it mentions one interpretation of "American exceptionalism" several times. However it is indeed also a very poorly written opinion-piece, and as such it is not a reliable source for anything than the opinion of the author, and I doubt he is notable enough to warrant inclusion here. --Saddhiyama (talk) 23:00, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

The writer is notable enough for a WP article about him, to have at least 6 generally well reviewed books published, and to be archived at Texas State University. Unlike Lipset who has more academic standing, Hightower infuses his work with wry humor for a broader audience, but that is no reason to take him or those first sources he cites less seriously. His criticism is not only of the US vs other countries, but the US vs its own perceptions of itself. With the separation of church and state, it's harder to claim one's exploitation of others is God's will. Enter American exceptionalism as an unassailable collection of qualities that cannot be quantified, a secular religion as it were, or at least as it seems to be treated by a majority of current editors of this article. If you take one writer's opinion on this (Lipset) to the literal exclusion of another's (Hightower) are you not POV pushing? Attleboro (talk) 16:29, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

NPOV says, "Neutrality requires that each article or other page in the mainspace fairly represents all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources, in proportion to the prominence of each viewpoint in the published, reliable sources." It is not POV to use the defintion of the person who popularized the concept and whose definition is widely accepted.
Hightower does not question Lipset's analysis, but uses the term in a different way. As the lead says, "Although the term does not necessarily imply superiority, many neoconservative and American conservative writers have promoted its use in that sense." Hightower is responding to them and using their definition.
The problem in the article is that it confuses two distinct concepts: (1) that the U.S. has a "uniquely American ideology, based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire'" and (2) the ideology itself, especially in its more extreme forms. The second topic btw is more correctly called "Americanism", a term use by Louis Hartz who like you referred to it as a "secular religion".
Disambiguation requires that we not confuse one term with different meanings. An article on Mars for example does not say that some writers think that Mars is a planet, while others think it is a chocolate bar.
Since Americanism is a fringe view, mainstream criticism of it will tend to analyze what it says, rather than present arguments against it. Compare with the article White supremacy. It does not contain any discussion challenging whether "white" people are in fact superior, nor arguments that that the white race is inferior. Arguments about why the U.S. is inferior to other nations, belong in Anti-Americanism. I am not of course saying that Hightower's article is anti-American. It is as you say a humorous article. It is comparable to comedians commenting on Wall Street crime, "what is wrong with the white community."
TFD (talk) 20:31, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for your thoughtful explanation. Sorry to have required it. There's no mention of Americanism in the article, apart from a sort of heresy. If Hightower and I, not to mention others reading this article, can so easily confound Americanism and American exceptionalism, shouldn't more effort go to disambiguating the two, even early in the lead, perhaps with Hightower as an example? ...especially since a quick perusal of academic uses of the term show the equivocation to be more common than not.* Attleboro (talk) 21:46, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
Thank you. I agree and have now re-written the lead.[5] TFD (talk) 23:12, 23 July 2013 (UTC)


The difference between American exceptionalism and Americanism should be stated more plainly. I removed the word "Americanism" from a sentence that was cited to Lipset because Lipset did not define Americanism in the way that the sentence laid out. However, I continue to think that Americanism can and should be described to the reader. Binksternet (talk) 23:27, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

Lipset begins Chapter One of American Exceptionalism by saying, " an "ism", or ideology in the same way that communism or fascism or liberalism are isms.... As noted in the Introduction, the nations's ideology can be described in five words: liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire." The addition of "Americanism" in the following passage seems to me to be entirely consistent with what he wrote: "developing a uniquely American ideology, "Americanism", based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire. TFD (talk) 23:47, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
My bad. I did not have the correct page at hand. Binksternet (talk) 23:51, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
Thanks. I think you were probably thinking about Lipset's writing in the 1950s when he did define Americanism as you said. TFD (talk) 00:30, 24 July 2013 (UTC)

The Lead[edit]

An IP has changed the first sentence of the lead to say, "American exceptionalism means the United States became a republic without a significant socialist movement or Labor party; the term was coined by Marxists to explain why."[6] Besides providing two conflicting defintions, one saying it means what happened, another another saying why it happened, the failure of socialism in the U.S. is only one aspect of the theory. The theory is more about what happened rather than what did not happen. TFD (talk) 16:05, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

Not a theory[edit]

That the U.S. government is different from those of Tory nations is not a theory. It is a fact.

These references state the term was coined by Marxists wondering why the U.S. had no a significant socialist movement or Labor party causing U.S. independence from England:


That U.S. independence from England is exceptional is the main point of the term. I suppose the British consider that a theory. Therefore, the first sentence of the article should at least include the term “English speaking." I'll add two references and “English speaking." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:55, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

England has nothing to do with it. The first instance of the term "American exceptionalism" was Stalin getting mad about the US being so resistant to Communism, more so than any other country. Binksternet (talk) 17:16, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
Note that neither of your sources support your point. Binksternet (talk) 17:20, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
The theory of exceptionalism is not merely that the U.S. became a republic, most nations have, but that it is qualitatively different from other nations, whether monarchies or republics. Being a republic is by itself not exceptional. TFD (talk) 18:25, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
I do not understand the relevance of adding "Only the U. S. seceded from the British Empire." In fact over fifty countries have been granted independence or seceded and dozens of colonies of other empires seceded too. TFD (talk) 20:10, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

Qualitatively different[edit]

"Qualitatively different" is not what exceptional means and sounds pompous. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:33, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

Also, according the shows I’ve seen and editorials I’ve read, the U. S. does not regard itself as merely “different” from other countries. It considers itself “much better than” other nations; if the U. S. ever compromised on human rights and the people being sovereign, the world would fall into another “dark ages.” Yes, the U. S. saved France, Iraq, Russia, and ought to be able to save you, if needed.-- (talk) 19:58, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
"Qualitatively different" is a direct quote from the author who popularized and defined the term. Prior to that only Marxists used the term, who not advocates of the superiority of American institutions. Until subsequent writers change it to a less pompous and accurate, we are stuck with it. And the article clearly distinguishes between the theory of exceptionalism, which does not imply that the UK is better than other nations, and Americanism, which is the belief that it is better. I should not need to explain this to you, because it is quite clear in the lead. TFD (talk) 21:01, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

You're wrong[edit]

Here is what American exceptionalism is:

American exceptionalism designates the belief and practices that explicitly or implicitly regard the United States as exceptional. It means that the United States is outstanding from other nations in ways that are good. Further, in most instances, what people denote by "American Exceptionalism" is the belief that America is exemplary.{{cite book |last=Gordon, Ph.D |first=T. David |editor-first=Charles |editor-last=Dunn |title=American Exceptionalism: The Origins, History, and Future of the Nation's Greatest Strength |publisher=Rowman & Littlefield |date=2013 |pages=79 |chapter=Chapter Five: Taking Exception to American Exceptionalism |isbn=9781442222793}}

Ism does not mean theory. And, exceptional does not mean different in quality. American exceptionalism means America is great, and the argument in the press is over that. The meaning of American exceptionalism does not include that argument. If you deny that, you’re being dishonest.-- (talk) 18:08, 29 July 2013 (UTC)

"Your wrong" assumption is that T. David Gordon defines American exceptionalism the way you think he does. Gordon is much more ambivalent; he says the definition of American exceptionalism "is somewhat fluid."[7] He says "One could either defend or deny the idea of American Exceptionalism depending on the definition." It appears that you have cherry-picked his words to push a point of view. Binksternet (talk) 18:29, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
As it says in the lead, "Although the term does not necessarily imply superiority, many neoconservative and American conservative writers have promoted its use in that sense." Hence it is not surprising that the editor, Charles W. Dunn, would use the term that way. When terms may have more than one meaning, we use disambiguation. For example, we have separate articles on Mars the planet and Mars the candy bar. TFD (talk) 20:19, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
The article is referencing, American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword, Seymour Lipset seems to be the source of the misuse of Exceptional-ism. In the introduction, on page 18, Lipset wrongly claims, "Exceptionalism is a double-edged concept." Well no, there are not two sides to the meaning of exceptional. It is always speaking of something favorably. Lipset then states ". . . we are the worst as well as the best . . ." Whether or not he used the term first, he was really writing to disagree with the notion of America being exceptional. The expression really means the United States is qualitatively ahead of other nations; our revolution was before that of France; We established a republic, invented Wikipedia, and so forth. -- Anonymous please — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:34, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
Lipset did not mean there were "two sides to the meaning". Rather the way in which the U.S. differed from other nations made the U.S. worse in some ways and better in others. He used the examples of crime and education at time when the U.S. had high crime rates and superior education. And exceptional does not necessarily mean better - that is an exceptionally poor argument. Everyone discussing your comments has a registered account except you, who are an exception. TFD (talk) 21:57, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
Here's some some info I found. I'm not sure how it could be worked in (I really don't have the time to spend a lot of time on improving this article although I was supprised at its definition of the topic): Exceptionalism says that in certain instances exceptional circumstances will result in distortion of a generally predictable course.<ref>Gove, Philip et al. 1961. '' Exceptionalism.'' Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged, p. 792. Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Company.</ref> Some English proverbs say a timely intervention prevents problems, such as “a stitch in time saves nine” stitches.<ref>Martin, Gary. 1996. ''A stitch in time saves nine.'' The Phrase Finder.</ref> An exceeptionalist is someone who believes or advocates exceptionalism.<ref>Gove, Philip et al. 1961. '' Exceptionalism.'' Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged, p. 792. Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Company.</ref> For example, an exceptional child is one who needs psychological aid or special education in social adjustment, because of being uncommon from either superior or inferior abilities.<ref>Gove, Philip et al. 1961. ''Exceptional.'' Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged, p. 791. Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Company.</ref> So, maybe it's not about being great or wanting to be, or about being qualitatively different either. In 1961 I think they considered it a philosophy of prevention or of intervention.-- (talk) 05:14, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Back in 1963 in The First New Nation, Lipset wrote, "In a real sense, this book pursues two substantive themes with which I have been concerned in previous writings the problem of what was once known in the Marxist literature as "American exceptionalism" and the conditions for stable democracy." TFD (talk) 05:37, 30 July 2013 (UTC)


Presuming that Your wrong is intended to mean You're wrong, and presuming further that the author of that headline is an American believing in exceptionalism (You're unique - just like everybody else.) then perhaps illiteracy rates in the US compared against other industrialised nations should form part of the topic. If a discussion of illiteracy gains no consensus of finding its way into the article, then perhaps American architecture, as aptly showcased right here:

as far as trailers are concerned, I lived in one as a small child and they are ubiquitous. They represent a very high degree of geographic mobility that is an American characteristic. American really do pick up and move 200 miles to a new job, or even 2000 miles. Maybe the Chinese are getting a taste of it in the last 20 years as millions move to factories in cities. Rjensen (talk) 23:41, 22 September 2013 (UTC)
Education has been discussed as part of exceptionalism. The U.S. was among the first to attain a high degree of literacy and education levels were far higher than in Canada for example. I do not know if anyone has written about modern comparisons in terms of exceptionalism. TFD (talk) 10:00, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
That sounds doubtful. Sources needed indeed. --Saddhiyama (talk) 11:20, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
See Google answers which provides links to various sources saying that the literacy rate in early America was much higher than in the UK and Europe.[8] See also Lipset's American Exceptionalism, p. 22, where he writes that the U.S. had long had the highest proportion of young people in higher education. Even in 1994 it was higher than anywhere in Europe or Japan. Even today, while much of the industrialized world has caught up or surpassed them, the U.S. still scores high in these areas. TFD (talk) 13:22, 23 September 2013 (UTC)

Belief in United States greatness[edit]

  • "American exceptionalism" is belief in United States greatness.<ref></ref>
  • Throughout U.S. history there has been tension between the exemplary and the missionary strands of American exceptionalism.<ref></ref>
  • Followers of the exemplary strand advocate Americans should strive to perfect their own society as much as possible without interfering in the affairs of others.<ref></ref>
  • Adherents to the missionary strand advocate U.S. expansion or intervention in the affairs of other nations to help them become free and democratic like the United States.<ref></ref>
  • Belief in "national greatness" is a central element of the ideology behind U.S. foreign policy.<ref></ref>
  • The United States is regarded as the embodiment of universal values based on the rights of all humankind.<ref></ref>
  • The goal is to establish and secure "freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear everywhere in the world."<ref></ref>
  • The Marshall Plan (1947) for the economic reconstruction of postwar Western Europe was designed to revive European economies using not only American money but also practices and principles.<ref></ref>
  • Elsewhere each program was also designed to exemplify the altruistic, benevolent impulses of the United States while also being advocated as an objective, scientifically proven method for aiding developing nations.<ref></ref>
  • President Ronald Reagan described the United States as "a land of hope, a light unto nations, a shining city on a hill."<ref></ref>-- (talk) 10:39, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
Please find some WP:Reliable sources rather than Thank you. Binksternet (talk) 11:00, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

United States unique nature[edit]

The word America means the United States of America, exceptional means unique, and “-ism” means nature. Check dictionaries made via peer review. However, this article’s defining reference at first calls America “exceptional” but then it defines exceptional as “qualitatively different.” Therefore, to follow Wikipedia policies, “qualitatively different” ought to be replaced by a more politically correct definition, such as “terrific nature.” Sniping at the United States in the guise of defining a word is not a neutral point of view. The U.S. is proud of not having a nobility or caste system. One on-line reference I found was saying something like, “Isn’t it hypocrital to have a Statue of Liberty, a pagan goddess from prehistoric times, when you had slavery?” The fact is the Statue of Freedom and the Statue of Liberty were made in the 1800s while and after the United Stated abolished slavery. It’s too bad reliable sources are so expensive. -- (talk) 04:55, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

Unique does not mean better - that is a unique argument. No one is sniping at the U.S. The lead does not mention slavery, which was not exceptional in America - the Portuguese, Spanish, English, French and other empires had slavery too. The fact that the U.S. has no nobility does not necessarily make it "better" or worse than the UK, just different. TFD (talk) 05:12, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
None of this is useful for improvement of the article. The next time you bring suggestions here, please support them with a reliable source. Until then... Binksternet (talk) 05:40, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
Ok, the current source can be used for this encyclopedic wording: “American exceptionalism is the exceptional nature of the United States, or belief therein.” That source also uses the word exceptional in defining American exceptionalism. Its definition of exceptional does not need to be used, because it is debatable. -- (talk) 06:41, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
Tautologies do not make good introductions to articles. Incidentally, the idea that the U.S. is exceptional is a theory and should not be presented as a fact. TFD (talk) 07:00, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

The lead[edit]

A few IPs and two registered accounts continue to make changes to the lead which are not reflected in the source. In the most recent edit, changed text saying exceptionalism posits the U.S. is "qualitatively different" to "has its own exceptional qualities as compared with those of other nations."[9] Since he source does not say these differences are "qualities", the edit is misleading and therefore I shall reverse it. TFD (talk) 04:13, 2 August 2013 (UTC)

It is absolutely misleading. This disruptive editor is trying to put a different viewpoint into the article than the ones described in his sources. Very misleading. Binksternet (talk) 06:41, 2 August 2013 (UTC)


Isn't/wasn't American Exceptionalism a central teaching of the Mormon religion? Its not mentioned here. --IronMaidenRocks (talk) 03:20, 8 September 2013 (UTC)

  • The true nature of Mormonism is showcased on the following Wikipedia page: All About Mormons.--Achim (talk) 23:36, 22 September 2013 (UTC)

The above link discusses a Simpsons Cartoon episode. Wikipedia also has real Mormon pages, of course. Robinrobin (talk) 02:48, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

The Wikipedia article I cited above is from South Park, not Simpsons. But that does not diminish its educational value. --Achim (talk) 04:35, 17 December 2013 (UTC)

Right, because antagonistic cartoons or silly songs created by opponents/critics are a great way to learn about atheism. --2610:E0:A040:A9FD:D3F:DE34:AEC:CC2F (talk) 18:59, 21 March 2014 (UTC)

"qualitatively different from other nation states"[edit]

is America a "nation state"? -- (talk) 18:18, 2 May 2014 (UTC)

It does not matter - it is part of the definition of American exceptionalism. We are not saying the U.S. is a nation state. TFD (talk) 18:48, 2 May 2014 (UTC)
To my knowledge, merely as a matter of sovereign legitimacy, the United States is generally considered a nation state. I could see weak arguments being made for considering it a multinational state based on territories and other outliers (Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, etc.), empire (based on distaste for overseas actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.) or (prior to the relatively strong federal government) confederation. - SummerPhD (talk) 18:51, 2 May 2014 (UTC)

Please be more POV with this article[edit]

Neoconservatives must continue to add non-neutral points of view to this article to provide amusement for the rest of us. Because you care about the primacy of Ronald Reagan, Peggy Noonan's quotes about American Exceptionalism are of vital importance. The people must know what Peggy Noonan thinks! It's verifiable! It's not original research! Plop it in the article. Yay!! There. Feel better? Good. Because you care about Marxism, Jay Lovestone and Joseph Stalin discussing America's possible exceptionalism in relation to Marxism is of vital importance to you. That's why the people must know that Stalin himself coined the term despite the verifiable fact that it appeared in print in the same context months before Stalin allegedly coined it and despite the fact that The Times of London discussed America's exceptionalism in print in relation to America's civil war decades before Stalin allegedly coined the term. But the people must know what Stalin said! It's also verifiable that he said it first! Plop it in the article. Create an entire subsection about American Exceptionalism in Marxism. Yay!! There. Feel better? Good. An entire subsection about Marxism and quoting Peggy Noonan are sufficiently POV to indicate to a bright 9th grader that this is an article that is best avoided because it was edited by nutty people, but more POV editing is needed to steer younger children away from it. That's why I encourage editors who care about unaged cheese, soccer/football, and a wide variety of other things where verifiable resources exist that discuss American Exceptionalism in the context of their interests must come here and create quotes and subsections for their bits of interest. From a very young age, children must learn that biased editors are here. What we really need are huge photos of Ronald Reagan on one side of the article with a halo around his head and an equally large photo of Joseph Stalin on the other side holding a pitchfork. That will drive the message home. That will tell the story that we all want to see. That will make all of us feel wonderful. Flying Jazz (talk) 14:25, 8 February 2015 (UTC)

So what would you suggest? The obscure mention in The Times is included, as is the idea that the concept if not the term goes back centuries. TFD (talk) 19:31, 8 February 2015 (UTC)
I suggest more of the same. I've already suggested giant photos of Reagan with a halo and Stalin with a pitchfork. Maybe a green label saying "GOOD" on Reagan and a red label saying "BAD" on Stalin would help along with a Fox News logo and a portrait of Roger Ailes's lawyer. Let's throw in photos Chomsky and Code Pink women around Stalin's head and a cute teen girl waving an American flag at a Nascar event above Reagan's halo. Citing Peggy Noonan, the well-respected Oxford historian and peer-reviewed author of countless journal articles on the topic, is not enough. We must cite other objective historians who are well-regarded by everyone worldwide like Dinesh D'Souza and Steve Emerson. Phrases like "left-wing/socialist and right-wing/aristocratic" need to be expanded further into something like "left-wing/socialist/potatoes/lesbians/body-hair and right-wing/aristocratic/capers/Mr. Grey/" Above all else, we must cite less material that was written before 2005 because it's completely irrelevant to the important thing: defeating Barack Obama's legacy. When I worked on this article in 2005-2006, the phrase meant something entirely different, so the article should be changed even more from what it was back then. One "Debates" section isn't enough. There must be a separate section for any time that Obama has used the phrase in any context. In fact, let's put Obama's photo above Stalin's head along with Chomsky's and the Code Pink women. Yes. That's what's best for the reader. Flying Jazz (talk) 20:53, 8 February 2015 (UTC)

The lead[edit]

The beginning of this article (as it stands right now) is self-contradictory. The first sentence says that American Exceptionalism implies a qualitative difference, yet a paragraph down it says that it doesn't imply it's better or worse. Furthermore, the second sentence belongs as part of the paragraph describing how many republicans have used the term. The article has problems and doesn't address the fact that there's more than one sense of the word "Exceptional", and that this has led to different interpretations of what "American Exceptionalism" means. Originally, Toqueville clearly meant it in the sense of being the exception to the rule, whereas republicans have used it in the superlative sense. These are very different word meanings. I feel I'm being charitable when I acquiesce to describing the term as having two meanings since all of the original meanings had to do with 'being the exception'.Ivemadeahugemistake (talk) 10:52, 9 June 2015 (UTC)

"Qualitatively different" does not mean better, it means having different attributes. Furthermore the expression is used by experts on the subject. Also, this is not a dictionary article where we explain the various ways a term can be used, but an encyclopedia article about a topic. We do not need to provide extensive discussion about alternative uses of the term, merely acknowledge they exist. And we should not refer to academic theories as "assertion[s]". TFD (talk) 15:39, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
"Qualitatively" refers to a measure of quality; when comparatively, either better or worse. In English, to say that "a country is qualitatively different", technically that means that the country as a whole is either better or worse than others; it does NOT mean that its "attributes" are different in quality. One would have to use different word choices/ordering in order to say that. If that is what is intended, then the article ought to be edited to reflect it. The word choices of experts on the subject, when misleading, should not be copied verbatim. Furthermore (and more to the point), the intended implication of saying that "the U.S. is qualitatively different" is understood by all to mean that it is better, which IS in contradiction with the second paragraph. The second paragraph doesn't mention the fact that the term doesn't imply better or worse out of pure technical semantics--it mentions that because of the term's meaning as a whole, yet that is in contradiction to the clear, understood implication of the first sentence as it's written now. We can either talk about pure semantics or we can talk about the intended meaning of the term, but we need to be aware of which at any particular time. If the article focuses on semantics in a section, it must recognize the different senses of the word "exceptional"--either being superlative, or else referring to being the exception; and we can keep the phrase at the beginning of the second paragraph about how it doesn't imply being necessarily better or worse. Or we can talk about the meaning that the phrase holds, but if we do that we should certainly mention that it has two quite different philosophical meanings, one of which is a much more recent invention that has to do with the U.S. effectively being "best". Take a look at all of the old usages of the term. They all refer to America being the exception. The exception to the rules in Europe; the exception to the Marxist-imagined rules of political-economy. This is indeed an encyclopedia article and its allegiance is to the public, whereas the allegiances of the experts may have been to their own political ideologies and agendas. When an "expert" phrases things in order to waffle or obfuscate--even slightly--to make their position seem more credible or acceptable, that tricky language ought to be ignored by encyclopedia writers, whose job it is to offer clarity of meaning, as people will understand it. Were an expert to say that many of the attributes of the U.S. are qualitatively different than other countries, then that would be so uncontroversial and clearly factual as to be pointless to articulate. Obviously, the U.S. has attributes that are different--so do all countries because countries are not clones of each other. But that is not what is meant by the phrase or else people wouldn't reference it. It wouldn't be meaningful. So User:The Four Deuces is wrong--we cannot let the article stand as is because the English meaning of the phrasing implies what we all know is true about how people interpret this phrase, yet that's in contradiction to the second paragraph. If we change the phrasing to be more explicitly to what he argued it means, it loses all importance, and it doesn't matter if an expert argued that's what they mean by the phrase--we know that that interpretation would be a philosophical smokescreen meant to seem unassailable on its face, yet meaningless, which doesn't stack up with the popularity of the term's use.
This article must address the "exception" interpretation of "American Exceptionalism" precisely because that is the meaning that the phrase held for the overwhelming majority of its use. The current version does not do that explicitly--rather, it confuses the reader by implying one definition, but switching to the other meaning when citing early examples. The current version's lead is poorly written because of the confusion. It doesn't take much to solve the problem. Please don't simply revert the edit I offer. User:The Four Deuces makes an argument for reverting that doesn't even make sense: that this is an encyclopedia article, not a dictionary definition of ways that the phrase could be used. This seems meant to imply that the "exception" interpretation is not how the phrase was used in practice. That is a very dishonest argument; all one need do is take a look at any of the early uses to see that it is false.Ivemadeahugemistake (talk) 19:18, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
While quality may mean "degree of excellence", its primary meaning is "peculiar and essential character." (See definition in Merriam-Webster.[10]) "Qualitatively different" means different in essential character. It is to make clear that it is not "quantitatively different", i.e., different in degree of excellence. A Google search of "qualitatively different" shows its standard usage.[11] While no other reader has said they have read the term the way you do, Rjensen has changed the expression to inherently so one hopes it will be clearer to readers. TFD (talk) 20:16, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for not simply reverting. This new lead is certainly much better written. I still have a philosophical niggle with it though, and it could be easily fixed. I think the way it's phrased now is well-poised for a small change that could incorporate all interpretations if we were to alter part of the first sentence to say " the theory that the United States is or ought to be treated as inherently different from...".Ivemadeahugemistake (talk) 20:58, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
I don't see the meaning of or ought to be treated as --- who is supposed to be doing this treating? what would the treating consist of? Rjensen (talk) 21:04, 9 June 2015 (UTC)

Pro-forma COI declaration[edit]

I'm co-editor of a book that's out now from the Dutch academic publisher Brill. I've added it to the further reading section and just thought I should make my connection clear. —Tim Davenport /// Carrite (talk) 05:08, 5 July 2015 (UTC)

Congratulations on the book and thanks for the reference! my experiences is that real scholars are appreciated on Wikipedia, but they have to use their real names on their user page so people know their credentials. Rjensen (talk) 08:40, 5 July 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for adding the book. It is a great contribution to understanding the history of the subject and certainly is a valuable resource for readers who want further information. TFD (talk) 15:04, 5 July 2015 (UTC)


Dick Cheney/Liz Cheney book[edit]

I do not think the article should contain a link to Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America. The book is not about the topic of this article, which is that America is qualitatively different from other nations, rather than better. The authors write, "Our children need to know that they are citizens of the most powerful, good, and honorable nation in the history of mankind, the exceptional nation." It does not appear to be particularly significant or influential.

TFD (talk) 16:22, 4 December 2015 (UTC)

Suggestion to change the definition of American exceptionalism[edit]

"American exceptionalism is a doctrine fundamented on three ideas." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:09, 5 June 2016 (UTC)

The point in the lead is that U.S. exceptionalism can have different definitions, but its main definition in reliable sources is not a doctrine but a theory. That some Americans believe their country has a unique destiny is evidence that the theory is true. TFD (talk) 02:29, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
A theory requires a lot more than that, and the belief of a minority of people in something is not sufficient to establish a delusion as truth. Hawkeye7 (talk) 03:04, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
doctrine vs theory?? the distinction is not clear. The first def is a historical statement that is contested as more-true/less true by various scholars. The three defs are distinct--one can hold to zero, one or two or three of them. Rjensen (talk) 03:14, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
I do not think it is a delusion that U.S. history and its social and political attitudes differ in some ways from those of Europe or even Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the three countries with which it has greatest similarity. There are different connotations between the term theory and doctrine. E = mc2 is a theory, transubstantiation is a doctrine. TFD (talk) 06:15, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
i think neither E = mc2 nor transubstantiation are useful models here. Rjensen (talk) 06:34, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
I am just saying that the term doctrine is more often used for a tenet of faith or belief, as in doctrinaire. TFD (talk) 08:45, 7 June 2016 (UTC)


copy ex Rjensen talk page

Dear Rjensen, you reverted my deletion of the section Origin of the term with the comment "keep fully sourced history of the term (later sections deal with the concept but not the term)". It is rather unclear what the distinction between the term and the concept is but two things are clear, one is that the contents of each are largely repeated and the other is that they actually conflict. The origin of the term is integral to its history anyway, the term can only be understood in the history of its development. It would be better if we did away with one or other of the sections and integrated them under History, or a better heading if you prefer. The whole article has grown in a rather incoherent way, it would be helpful if we could cull out a great deal of it and tried to get some discipline into the structure. I suggest that we retain the History, starting with the origin of the term in de Tocqueville, any content considered to be of value that is unique to Origin of therm can be retained within History, but actually there is almost none in there. The other thing I tried to do was to make History a history, and that was already developing as a timeline with dates but I note that Post War development - 1945-1999 has been replaced with Uniqueness, which seems to be introducing a random conceptual idea into what is otherwise a chronology. You can probably do a better job of it than than I did but I would ask you to reconsider the wholesale reinstatement of Origin of the term on the basis that it is redundant. Ex nihil (talk) 09:42, 30 August 2016 (UTC)
it's a bad idea to erase fully sourced uncontroversial material. Wikipedia articles do grow like topsy--there is no masterplan. Narrative history and biography can work on straight chronological terms but this sort of conceptual article can be problematic. The section on " 1945-1999" was misnamed and badly done--Ross was including ideas from the 19th century (post-Millenialism is 19th century and does NOT say it applies only to the USA; Germanic origins idea = late 19th eg Herbert B Adams--it's the opposite of exceptionalism since he held that all Germanic nations were covered). The section really talked about a related issue (uniqueness) so I revised it accordingly. the term was a mainstay of Marxism for many years (1920s-1940s). Rjensen (talk) 09:54, 30 August 2016 (UTC)

Tone of criticism section[edit]

I take issue with the presented dichotomy of "historians" (who are critical) and "empirical social scientists" (who are affirmative). Why are social scientists called "empirical"? Seems a rather laudatory introduction.

Apex Editor (talk) 20:59, 23 March 2017 (UTC)

I suppose the distinction is that social scientists have looked at the evidence, such as lack of a socialist party, while historians have questioned what conclusions can be drawn from the evidence. TFD (talk) 03:44, 24 March 2017 (UTC)