What is America? Is it a hegemonic superpower, composed of ruthlessly selfish capitalists? Or is it a land of hope and glory, a shelter for the huddled masses, and a beacon of freedom and enlightenment? The definition of this complex nation has been debated substantially, yet all seem to agree on one thing: it is unique. The idea of an exceptional America can be traced all the way back to Alexis de Tocqueville’s nineteenth-century observations of a newly formed democracy that seemed determined to distinguish itself from the rest. Little, it seems, has changed.
Building on de Tocqueville’s concept of American exceptionalism, this collection of essays, contributed by some of the nation’s top scholars and thinkers, takes on the weighty task of sizing up America in a way its people and others can comprehend. Far more than simple history, they outline the current state of American institutions and policies — from the legal system to marriage to the military to the Drug War — and anticipate where these are headed in the future.