The Relative Comment

soothing waves of relativity

America’s (exceptional) Identity

with 2 comments

Relative to: David Brooks, The Crossroads Nation

Mr. Brooks op-ed piece in the Times today wonders about what the United States’ economic identity will look like in the future. We are building a bridge, as Clinton said, but to where? Laying a new foundation, as Obama said, but a foundation of what?

Brooks is free to posit whatever future he desires, in this case, the Crossroad Nation that is “the center of global networks”, and will continue to attract folks from around the world for opportunities provided that are uniquely American.  This will be the case, Brooks says, because the US will have the greatest global networks and connections.

Though I think Brooks’ picture of the US is fairly accurate, in my opinion the future doesn’t have much room for American Exceptionalism. It’s not that the United States isn’t special. It is. But will the 21st century be a place where exceptionalism of the kind the US boasted of in the previous century can still remain? Do we want it to remain?  Why is it so important that Americans believe that their nation is the best nation in the world, to be the nation that will “define the era,” as Brooks suggest we will? This is a sincere question. As the world continues to become more and more interconnected, and opportunities expand to more and more individuals throughout the world, it might be time to put exceptionalism to bed, and concern ourselves with global well-being. After all, if the world becomes as interconnected as Brooks thinks it will be, then the US’s well-being will be wholly dependent on the well-being of those with whom we are connected.

We all want the US to remain a great, free, economically viable nation committed to fairness and equality and justice and reason. But I want these things for other nations, too.  I don’t want America to be the exception.


Written by Christopher ZF

November 9, 2010 at 18:42

2 Responses

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  1. “After all, if the world becomes as interconnected as Brooks thinks it will be, then the US’s well-being will be wholly dependent on the well-being of those with whom we are connected.”
    I just don’t see that being the case in a capitalist framework. We can talk about global this and global that, but even if you move past American (read: European American) exceptionalism, you’re till in a system that absolutely requires exploitation and inequality to exist. Global in this future simply means the welcoming of the bourgeoisie that has existed in other forms in those other nations.
    That sounds so pessimistic doesn’t it? But I think it’s true.


    November 9, 2010 at 23:21

    • It is pessimistic. And I don’t disagree.
      I’m just arguing for a change in the framework that wants to see the US as exceptional. The US standing apart from the world is likely to decline as other nations start to compete economically, militarily, technologically, etc. This shouldn’t equate to something that Americans oppose.
      Hopefully it will be more than a larger amount of bourgeois exploitation.


      November 9, 2010 at 23:58

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