Thomas Bender: New Approaches to the Question of American Exceptionalism
Thomas Bender, a professor of History at New York University, is an intellectual and cultural historian, who has also been a leader in the movement to reframe United States history in transnational and global frameworks, most notably with his books “Rethinking American History in a Global Age” and “A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History”. In this lecture he spoke about American exceptionalism, which is a theory that the United States is different from other countries in that it has a specific world mission to spread liberty and democracy. In this view, America's exceptionalism stems from its emergence from a revolution, becoming “the first new nation”, and developing a uniquely American ideology, based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire. Professor Bender is trying to put an end to the recent revival of American exceptionalism, a defect he esteems to be inherited from the Cold War. He emphasized that America and Europe were actually very similar on a number of social and economic indices. He claimed that the development of the United States had always depended on its transactions with other nations for commodities, cultural values and populations. Ha also argued that the United States had not broken from European history, and had retained class inequities, imperialism and war. Furthermore, most nations subscribe to some form of exceptionalism. Professor Bender emphasized that the United States of America is part of our global world and cannot be separated in any ways from the rest of the world.