American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword

Front Cover
W. W. Norton & Company, 1997 - History - 352 pages
7 Reviews
"American values are quite complex," writes Seymour Martin Lipset, "particularly because of paradoxes within our culture that permit pernicious and beneficial social phenomena to arise simultaneously from the same basic beliefs."

Born out of revolution, the United States has always considered itself an exceptional country of citizens unified by an allegiance to a common set of ideals, individualism, anti-statism, populism, and egalitarianism. This ideology, Professor Lipset observes, defines the limits of political debate in the United States and shapes our society.

American Exceptionalism explains why socialism has never taken hold in the United States, why Americans are resistant to absolute quotas as a way to integrate blacks and other minorities, and why American religion and foreign policy have a moralistic, crusading streak.

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

Review: American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword

User Review  - Claire Leavitt - Goodreads

Assigning this for my intro-to-American-politics this summer. Readable, fascinating. Read full review

Review: American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword

User Review  - Catfantastic - Goodreads

It was illuminating. Lipset kept projecting an "I am totally objective and everything I say is true" vibe, even though it became really evident over the course of the book where his sympathies lay ... Read full review


Ideology Politics and Deviance
Economy Religion and Welfare
Socialism and Unionism in the United States and Canada
Blacks and Whites
American ExceptionalismJapanese Uniqueness
A DoubleEdged Sword
Individualism and Group Obligation

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (1997)

American political theorist and sociologist, Seymour Lipset, was born in New York City and educated at City College of New York and Columbia University. Lipset has taught at a number of universities, including the University of Toronto, Columbia University, the University of California at Berkeley, Harvard University, and Stanford University. A senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, he is also a member of the International Society of Political Psychology, the American Political Science Association, and the American Academy of Science. Lipset maintains that contemporary democracy is flawed; nevertheless, he believes that it is still "the good society itself in operation." Applying both political science and sociological approaches to political systems, he supports a trend to replace political ideology with sociological analysis. Among Lipset's many works are "Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics" (1960), "Class, Status, and Power" (1953), and "Revolution and Counterrevolution" (1968). He has also contributed articles to a number of magazines, including The New Republic, Encounter, and Commentary. Lipset has received a number of awards for his work, including the MacIver Award in 1962, the Gunnar Myrdal Prize in 1970, and the Townsend Harris Medal in 1971.

Bibliographic information