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Summary

  • Samuel R. SpencerJr.
Chapter
Part of the Rheinisch-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften book series (VG, volume 226)

Abstract

Understood as bicentennial lecture, the author takes the 1976 celebration as an opportunity for reflexion on American values and institutions in retrospect as well as prospect. With due caution against generalization, the formative influences on America’s character and spirit are discussed in its historical experience. Immigration from European and other areas is described against a variety of cultures and polyglot backgrounds; though by individual motivation or forced by circumstances, immigration was mainly a movement of common people, the lower order of society. Hence certain characteristics formed their common desire to become Americans. The Frontier experience is discussed in the context of the Turner thesis and its application to continued migration as well as to horizontal and vertical mobility. Taking into account the “consensus” theorists the author discusses examples of values, attitudes, and beliefs constituting quasi “articles of faith” which were revived in Mr. Carter’s presidential campaign against the background of current pessimism and self-doubt: The concept of Americanism in its development from the “melting-pot” idea to the modern ethnic and cultural pluralism and its notion of “pluralistic patriotism”. The concept of isolationism in world affairs is discussed in conjunction of the collective rejection of the Old World in immigrant days with its seeming antithesis of democratic missionary zeal. The distrust of strong central government at home is studied in the context of socio-economic developments, industrialization and urbanization, and social reform movements. The author discusses these “articles of faith” with a view towards American history and present, explains assurance and doubts of the American people on foreign policy issues, social reform and domestic issues, and he touches on the technological and political commitment of the US for the future.

Copyright information

© Westdeutscher Verlag GmbH Opladen 1978

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  • Samuel R. SpencerJr.

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