American Exceptionalism

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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The question of American exceptionalism will always be a controversial one. In two contrasting essays, professors Ian Tyrrell and Seymour Martin Lipset discuss their views on American exceptionalism. Tyrrell does not believe America to be exceptional and talks mostly about history from all over the world to make his case. Lipset, on the other hand, believes that the United States is exceptional in that it differs from other countries since it began from a revolutionary event. I agree with both Tyrrell and Lipset. While America may exceptional in certain aspects, it is not in others.

Lipset definitely has good supporting ideas and facts for his argument. He says, "As I have frequently argued, it is impossible to understand a country without seeing how it varies from others." By this he means you cant claim America to be exceptional without comparing it to other countries and cultures. Lipset also mentions the French author Alexis de Toqueville. Toqueville knew quite a bit about other cultures and different countries and yet was the first to refer to the United States as exceptional. He then moves on to talk about how in America we have great religious freedom, and that the United States is "the only country where most churchgoers adhere to sects." This is important because we have the freedom and tolerance for everyone to be, or even not have any religion at all. I agree with Lipset in this aspect because in my opinion it is important for us to have the freedom to make choices regarding our own religion and other such matters. Lipset also discusses the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights and how they are "designed to protect the citizenry against the abuse of power by the government." I also agree with Lipset on this. American is...