From Liberty to Liberation: The Theory and Practice of American Exceptionalism.
Taussig, Torrey E.
- Submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Abstract: ‘Exceptionalism’ is a much used and often contested term in ongoing U.S. foreign policy debates. A central problem regarding American exceptionalism is the imprecision with which it is used, and its vague meaning in contemporary politics. Furthermore, the ... read moreuse of exceptionalism by policymakers across the political spectrum contributes not only to ambiguity surrounding the concept, but also to partisan purposes for specific party objectives. This thesis moves beyond the more political applications of exceptionalism in order to illuminate its origins, core principles, and evolution throughout American history. In so doing, this study seeks to shed light on the often-unarticulated role that exceptionalism and other ideals and beliefs play in the development of U.S. foreign policy. This paper also aims to provide clarity and depth to the study of exceptionalism by exploring the central theoretical frameworks behind the concept, as well as by using various case studies to highlight the practice of exceptionalism within American foreign policy. This research outlines key findings on the role of exceptionalism as an intervening variable within the foreign policy decision-making process. One such finding is that exceptionalism remains, as it has since the country’s founding, a central tenet of America’s liberal ideology and national identity. Moving forward, exceptionalism will continue to be subject to intense debate – at home and abroad. In order for American policymakers to pursue effective foreign policies that gain domestic and international support, they must be more self-aware of the national biases, ideals, and principles that influence the debate, in order to better articulate America’s diplomatic and military tactics and objectives in times of war and peace. Lastly, in the age of American hegemony – and the possible waning of that hegemony – questions of exceptionalism will only continue to become more relevant.read less