HARTZ. American Exceptionalism (pt2).

— Picking up)

Americans enjoyed bourgeois liberty. “Not the aristocratic freedom of their motherland, but a middle-class and democratic freedom.” (Tocqueville).

The U.S. had learned to combine liberty and democracy as the French had not. They did not suffer what Tocqueville called a “democratic revolution.” They (in the U.S.) all belonged to a middle class. There was no prolonged struggle to bring down aristocracy.

Tocqueville said:

The Americans had this great advantage, that they attained democracy without sufferings of democratic revolution and that they were born equal instead of becoming so.

Hartz expands Tocqueville’s analysis in two directions:

1. Employed the French aristocratic insights to explain the striking absence of an American socalist or militant working-class tradition.

America’s white immigrants could pursue middle-class goals freely, because social homogeneity kept most Americans from thinking systematically about class difference. American political culture lacked the European categories necessary to the expression of antagonism.

Whereas a European socialist might see class confrontation, most Americans saw only a pluralist conflict among narrowly defined interests, and they behaved accordingly, by shunning class-based policies. Hartz argued the failure of the bourgeoisie to develop class-consciousness left American workers ideologically crippled.

A triumphant middle-class can take itself for granted. (Tocqueville).

2. Applied Tocqueville’s arguement to American political ideas that were thoroughly liberal.

Hartz argued that they began with Locke and, “stay with [him] by virtue of an absolute and irrational attachment” that made America as uniquely “indifferent to the challenge of socialism” as it had earlier been “unfamiliar with the heritage of feudalism.”

Because there was no feudalism to attack, American liberals, unlike their European counterparts (or Locke), could reject entirely the idea of a powerful government. They didn’t need it to use as a weapon against an older order. In conjunction with insensitivity to class differences, this fear of governmental power has consistently weakened movements for large-scale welfare programs, economic regulation, or socialism.

Because American industrial development generally resembled Europe’s, Hartz cast his Exceptionalism thesis in strongly political and cultural terms. What has differentiated politics in the U.S., are limits that have been imposed on economically induced political change by the agreement of liberal beliefs and programs.

Author: writtencasey

I am fascinated by the scientific endeavor and I read about or engage with those processes as much as possible. I am a compulsive reader and writer. With a background in anthropology and as an arm-chair/backyard scientist, I hope to improve my writing skills and learn about any areas of weakness or misunderstanding in my analytic skills. I am excited to share. Thank you for spending time here. Please reach out if you are so inclined. I'd be excited to hear from you.

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