How different is the United States from other nations? American leaders and common folk have often said it’s very different. The Founding Fathers said it, Abraham Lincoln said it, Woodrow Wilson said it, Franklin Roosevelt said it, Bill Clinton said it, and George W. Bush said it–and they were hardly the only ones. It certainly seems that the history and nature of United States are quite different from other comparable nations. Americans often say that the U.S., almost uniquely, has been and remains ‘a nation of immigrants,’ the ‘land of opportunity,’ and the ‘arsenal of democracy.’ But how much of it is true? In his provocative new book The Myth of American Exceptionalism (Yale UP, 2009), Godfrey Hodgson attempts to answer this important question. He’s the right man to do so. Though British, he has observed the U.S. professionally for nearly half a century. Thus he has both the perspective of the detached outsider and the knowledge of the native insider. He challenges Americans to look at themselves as others see them. Whether you agree with Hodgson or not (and as you’ll hear, we sometimes cross swords), that is certainly a good thing and we should thank him for it.
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