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Exceptional AmericaWhat Divides Americans from the World and from Each Other$
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Mugambi Jouet

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520293298

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520293298.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Exceptional America

Mugambi Jouet

University of California Press

Jouet begins his book by describing his work as a human rights lawyer representing poor prisoners in New York at the time of mass incarceration on a scale unprecedented in global history. He goes on to describe how the degeneration of American justice embodies troubling dimensions of American exceptionalism, including acute wealth inequality, systemic racism, anti-intellectualism, Christian fundamentalism, and chronic human rights abuses. While the word “exceptional” can imply greatness or superiority, American exceptionalism historically referred to how America is “exceptional” in the sense of “unique,” “different,” “unusual,” “extraordinary” or “peculiar.” Ironically, scores of Americans equate “exceptionalism” with their nation’s superiority when it might be its Achilles Heel—a self-destructive vicious circle threatening admirable dimensions of American society.

Keywords:   Polarization, American Culture, European Culture, France, Race and Immigration, Trumpism, Tocqueville, Memoir

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